Grown up digital

Grown up digital is the second latest book signed the Canadian author Don Tapscott. Published in 2008 it was released twelve years after one of his earlier books Growing up digital. The book is a generational study of the Net Generation, and throughout the book Tapscott presents traits associated with NetGeners, and how these affect different institutions. The institutions which the computer-savvy generation is affecting includes the educational and the commercial sector, the work place, the family and the political system in both state and volunteer form.

The Net Generation is made up of the cohort born between 1977 and 1997, following the Baby Boom Generation (1946-1964) and the Generation X (1965-1976). They differ from their parental generation in various ways, and their exposure to digital media plays an important part in their life. The experience of one-way communication, strong hierarchies, slow procedures is something the Net geners do not like since they have grown up with a technology enabling immediate response, constant communication with their peers and constant access to information. The Net geners are not just being subject to the digital technology, they are also changing it, and since this is an important aspect of the knowledge economy this may be a reason to the flatten hierarchy of the family, of the work place and in their education. The Net generation has been involved in a bigger part of family life taking part in the decision making process in their home, they are expecting to be a part of executive decisions at the work place, and to have influence over arenas where they participate. The book does also imply a paradigmatic shift from the workplace, the politics and the education of the industrial age, which now have to be replaced with a more egalitarian, faster, flexible and entertaining system to fit with the norms of the Net Geners.

Tapscott lists eight Net Generation norms: freedom, customize, scrutinize, integrity and openness, entertainment and play, collaboration and relationship, speed, and innovation (34-36). These norms are important throughout the book and make up a framework for how the new generation can be understood. Freedom is important in, for example, how the Net Geners want to work. Instead of face time at work, they want to have the opportunity to work from home, work flexible hours, to combine work with family life and to try out new jobs (161). The broadcasting model is obsolete; with two-way communication enabled through the Internet two way content is also expected, this changes how things are done. Regarding politics Tapscott mentions the presidential campaign of Barak Obama as a new way of doing political campaigns. The leader of his online presence Chris Huges made a people-powered campaign to win the election. Through the influence of friends on social networking sites, through authentic encouragements from famous people on YouTube, through a web page filled with content and do-it-yourself instructions and a financing model based on many small contributions rather than few large sponsors played an important role in Obama winning the nomination and the election. It is also a moral side to this, since the Net Generation is used to navigating through the Internet where content can be published by everyone, and where companies, peers as well as more negative aspects such as bullies and other threats are lurking around the generation has developed a higher criticism to information. This combined with the powerful search and storage functions of the cloud politicians, companies both as producers and as potential employers and other are subject to scrutiny. Videos on YouTube are juxtaposing video clips of politicians presenting inconsistent opinions to different groups, or videos of speeches years earlier purporting different opinions from what they are presenting today. Youth in developing countries are writing about corporate behaviour in the south, and this is influencing consumer behaviour in the north, and user reviews with elaborated technological specifications makes the active consumers choose between the products which are best fulfilling their needs. All information needed is online, and if not the Net Geners are able to publish what is missing.

The book begins and ends with negative claims about the Net Generation written in books such as The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future by Mark Bauerlein, Crazy Busy by Edward Hallowell or the Spoiled Rotten: Today’s Children and How to Change Them seminars held by Fred Gosman. I perceive Tapscotts book as an answer to these claims about the generation growing up with digital communication technology. The book consists of many examples used to falsify the claims of the Net Generation being lazy, stealing, unengaged in society and other vices. The book is a good introduction to understand the Net Generation and how they are affecting the society, it sees the generation from a positive perspective and includes many interviews, examples as well as statistics to reinforce this view.

Reference: Tapscott, Dan (2008). Grown up digital: How the net generation is changing your world. London: Mc Graw Hill

*I have deliberately referred to the net generation as second person plural to keep a distance while reviewing the book.

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