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The App Generation

The App Generation: How Today's Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The App Generation
    Book Description:

    No one has failed to notice that the current generation of youth is deeply-some would say totally-involved with digital media. Professors Howard Gardner and Katie Davis name today's young people The App Generation, and in this spellbinding book they explore what it means to be "app-dependent" versus "app-enabled" and how life for this generation differs from life before the digital era.

    Gardner and Davis are concerned with three vital areas of adolescent life: identity, intimacy, and imagination. Through innovative research, including interviews of young people, focus groups of those who work with them, and a unique comparison of youthful artistic productions before and after the digital revolution, the authors uncover the drawbacks of apps: they may foreclose a sense of identity, encourage superficial relations with others, and stunt creative imagination. On the other hand, the benefits of apps are equally striking: they can promote a strong sense of identity, allow deep relationships, and stimulate creativity. The challenge is to venture beyond the ways that apps are designed to be used, Gardner and Davis conclude, and they suggest how the power of apps can be a springboard to greater creativity and higher aspirations.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19918-5
    Subjects: Psychology, Sociology, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    On a sunny though chilly day in March 2012, the two authors, Howard Gardner and Katie Davis, initiated a lengthy conversation with Katie’s sister Molly. Ten years earlier, Katie, then in her early twenties, had begun to study with Howard, then in his late fifties. Since then they have collaborated on numerous research and writing projects, including this book. At the time of the conversation, held in Howard’s office at Harvard, Molly, aged sixteen, was a junior at an independent school in New England.

    Why did Howard and Katie hold and record this conversation? Since 2006, we and our fellow...

  5. TWO Talk about Technology
    (pp. 15-34)

    The first technologies are built into our species’ hardware and software. Stroke the side of a newborn’s foot and the toes will spread; make a sudden loud sound and the infant will startle; smile at a three-month-old and the baby will smile back. No instruction is necessary.

    Externally invented technologies have been with us for many thousands of years, and they are equally a part of human development. One can tickle with a brush as well as with the hand; the loud sound can come from a percussion instrument or a foghorn; and the infant can smile at a doll...

  6. THREE Unpacking the Generations: From Biology to Culture to Technology
    (pp. 35-59)

    Ever since humans became aware that organisms are reproduced, it has been possible to think of life in terms of generations. Literally, any person, nonhuman animal, or plant is the product of the preceding (parental) generation and in turn has the potential to spawn the succeeding (or offspring) generation. (For present purposes, we’ll ignore the hapless mule.) Those of us raised in the Judeo-Christian traditions probably first encountered the formal idea of generations in the Bible—through the endless list of “begats.” And of course, any young person who strays beyond the nuclear family encounters individuals of older generations—aunts,...

  7. FOUR Personal Identity in the Age of the App
    (pp. 60-91)

    The apps arrayed on a person’s smartphone or tablet represent a fingerprint of sorts—only instead of a unique pattern of ridges, it’s the combination of interests, habits, and social connections that identify that person. A news app might be sandwiched between a fantasy sports app and a piano keyboard app, revealing multiple facets of one’s identity. Because many of these apps provide access to various online communities, each facet allows the owner to find ready communion with similarly oriented people. Though the range of self-expression is great online, it’s not unrestricted. For instance, expressions are limited to 140 characters...

  8. FIVE Apps and Intimate Relationships
    (pp. 92-119)

    Remember that famous tag line, “Reach out and touch someone?” AT&T first used it for an ad campaign in the early 1980s to convey the power of telephones to bring people together across geographic boundaries (the corporation was trying to sell long-distance calling at the time—a service that’s become increasingly difficult to promote in the age of Skype and other voice-over IP services). By giving us an array of tools, formats, and platforms to connect to others, apps have transformed what it means to reach out and touch someone. Whether exchanging a private joke with one friend through Snapchat...

  9. SIX Acts (and Apps) of Imagination among Today’s Youth
    (pp. 120-154)

    Apps like SketchBook, Brushes, ArtStudio, Procreate, and ArtRage allow artists to draw, sketch, and paint using their smartphone or tablet. Photographers can create and manipulate images with Flixel, Instagram, Fotor, and PhotoSlice. For aspiring filmmakers, there’s Viddy, iMovie, Video Star, and Movie360. Musicians can compose and arrange their music using SoundBrush, GarageBand, Songwriter’s Pad, and Master Piano.

    We could make similar lists for just about any artistic genre. A sizable portion of the app ecology is devoted to supporting artistic production. Even apps that aren’t ostensibly meant for creative pursuits lend themselves to imaginative uses. Recall our earlier discussion of...

  10. SEVEN Conclusion: Beyond the App Generation
    (pp. 155-198)

    The British writer Anthony Burgess is probably best known for his 1962 novelA Clockwork Orange, adapted a decade later (1971) into a memorable movie by director Stanley Kubrick—a work that has in the years since morphed into a cult classic.¹ Briefly, the novel portrays a young ruffian, Alex, who participates all too eagerly in mayhem, rape, and even murder. As Burgess puts it, Alex is generously “endowed, perhaps overendowed, with three characteristics that we regard as essential attributes of man.”² To specify: Alex is very articulate; he loves beauty, especially the music of Beethoven; and he revels in...

  11. Methodological Appendix
    (pp. 199-208)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 209-230)
  13. Index
    (pp. 231-244)