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Context Book Review: The App Generation

I am scrolling through TikTok, the blurring of videos flashing before me. A melody of food enticement, funny sketches, and random stories…luckily there is a 5-minute timer. I’ve been doing the Po

modoro technique, 30 minutes on 5 minutes off to give my child brain an excuse to concentrate. “Look”, I say, “there is a treat at the end of this” and so the cycle continues. Otherwise, most likely, I would be here for hours. One eye-catching video after another. Maybe that is what Howard Gardner and Katie Davis mean about app-dependency in The App Generation: How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World. Too much digital candy, not enough digital vegetables.  My TikTok obsession aside, it is not exactly what they are after. They, instead, ask the question (much like the title suggests) – how does a generation (hello Zoomers!) form identity, intimacy, and imagination in an age where they are flooded with technology and, by consequence, the plethora of apps packaged to them. And, more to my interest, how does a library play into this future generation’s needs?

There is definitely some fear in this book. Not the 5-alarm bell, the robbers are off with jewels, but a concerning sit down like a parent saying, “I’m not mad, we just need to talk”. That kind of fear, a little anxiety inducing, but some self-awareness in the mix. It seems to stem from the duality of the positive and negative that technology can provide. The authors first identify, as a generality, that this technology induced generation tends to be more open-minded, worldly, and comfortable with varying lifestyles and identities which is too be expected with the internet providing such a robust web of availability at one’s fingers tips. On the other end, we find individuals who are also afraid to take risks, too much self-indulgence as app culture constantly bombards with the me-me-me of selfies and self-promotion, and with so much distraction an inability to find quiet which leads to not finding self.  This can have serious ramifications on building relationships as people find themselves having less empathy for others. As well, less of a need to leave the house with everything right in front of us on our phones, tablets, computers. That’s not to say there isn’t, what the authors call, the convenience factor. Having an ability to connect with family and friends at a moment’s notice can create much needed intimacy especially when hundreds of miles away from each other.

We can also consider those who are wishing to step into a creative field. The threshold to move into the creative landscape has never been lower thanks to technology. Are you interested in music? There is an app for that. Drawing? There is an app for that, too. And a whole slew of other apps that will help you delve into whatever creative passion you see fit. Of course, there are some draw backs. The authors found two key issues. First, limitations with these apps. Once inside the software, there are only so many options one has at their fingertips such as instruments or brush availability. Additionally, with so much creative distraction there seems to be limitation placed on imagination. More copying, less originality. This can also play into the belief of not wanting to take risk. Less risk in doing something that is already tried and true.

With all that being said, what is one to do? Are we to throw out all our technology and get back to the analog days? Are we to go headfirst into technology and find the route to better connect us like virtual reality in Ready Player One?

Yes and no.

Like with all things, it is applying moderation. I think this is where librarians come in. Much like libraries that have an Apple style bar to assist patrons with their technology needs, librarians can create a series of workshops that assist people in having agency in their technology usage. To inform them on the data and privacy concerns. To show them the many ways to share and create through apps and technology. To ask patrons what they would like to learn and how apps can help them achieve that. To become less of technology using us (app-dependent) and to get back to us using technology (app-enabled). To remember that technology is a tool to enhance our goals, not the end all of where life begins.


1 Comment

  1. Bekah Puddington (she/her)

    Wow, “How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World”—what a subtitle! Thanks for mentioning the Pomodoro technique; that’s the first I’m learning that name, though the 30 on-5 off routine sounds familiar. And the increase in both open-mindedness AND being risk-averse for digital natives is a fascinating concept. Appreciated also the contrasting paradigm you offer us at the end, app-dependent V. app-enabled. Thanks for another insightful post, Cesar!

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