Susan Herring’s “Questioning the Generational Divide (2008)

The present so-called “Internet Generation” (born in the mid to late 80’s) is a group of people who have never not had the internet. This group is proclaimed as fundamentally different than the generations before them for this reason. Growing up with all of the new technologies that have arisen during the lifetimes of adults, the Internet Generation takes such technologies for granted. To young people, working with technology is not really thought about as working with technology–it is normal activity.

Herring argues that adults are the ones touting the characteristics of the Internet Generation without recourse to the perspectives of actual members of the Internet Generation. This is presented as an “us/them differentiation” instead of a grass-roots “this is what we are” exposition from a primary perspective. Herring further argues that the “Internet Generation” is actually a transitional generation concious of their own and adults’ perpectives. Kids realize that adults think of their activities in a special light, a perspective they do not necessarily share. The true Internet Generation, Herring suggests, is a generation in the near future who grows up not only with the internet and corresponding mobile technologies, but also with adult onlookers who now see these things as normal activites. This future Internet Generation will not have a dual view of themselves, and will be able to truly not grow up with an appreciation of the differences of their present technologies with past technologies.

Herring suggests that such a transition has already taken place with the Television Generation. When the first generation of TV users was growing up, adults viewed their activities as strange and exotic. Several years later, it was the older adults who took on these activities as their own, and the TV Generation moved on to other things. Their children grew up in world where TV viewing was normal activity, not exotic technological advance.   

This brings us to a question: “What is high-tech to you?” Televisions? Text-messaging? Virtual worlds? Blogs? The wheel? We often think of high tech in terms of technological advances made in our own lifetimes and tend to ignore what has become normal to us thorugh constant exposure (i.e. using overhead projectors or flourescent lightbulbs in classrooms is no longer considered using technology in classrooms). Herrings point in the article: Stop exoticizing the so-called Internet Generation. The technologies we now see as fundamentally new and different and theirs, will probably soon become commonplace fixtures in our own adult worlds, and the “Internet Generation” will have moved on to bigger and hopefully better things.

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One thought on “Susan Herring’s “Questioning the Generational Divide (2008)

  1. I’m thinking what would make me surprised in the near future; I bet there must be tons of innovations since our globe never stops moving (and it seems that its speed is increasing day by day). What I can think right now perhaps the ubicomp systems/technologies. Who knows, we may not require a keyboard to type in, there might be an invisible tool which allows us to interact more freely and efficiently. Regarding generation gap, it is mundane phonomena; I am also starting to have a feeling that this young generation is so much different from mine. This is not just technological perspectives, I mean everything that forms their collective identity, such as their thoughts, language, performance, and so on.

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