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The Children of Cyberspace: Old Fogies by Their 20s

Sunday, January 10, 2010


The Children of Cyberspace: Old Fogies by Their 20s: "YouTube. Facebook. The Kindle. Now a tablet. New technology is creating new generation gaps."

I’ve begun to think that...[every] generation will also be utterly unlike those that preceded it.

Researchers are exploring this notion too. They theorize that the ever-accelerating pace of technological change may be minting a series of mini-generation gaps, with each group of children uniquely influenced by the tech tools available in their formative stages of development.

“People two, three or four years apart are having completely different experiences with technology,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. “College students scratch their heads at what their high school siblings are doing, and they scratch their heads at their younger siblings. It has sped up generational differences.”

One obvious result is that younger generations are going to have some very peculiar and unique expectations about the world. My friend’s 3-year-old, for example, has become so accustomed to her father’s multitouch iPhone screen that she approaches laptops by swiping her fingers across the screen, expecting a reaction.

And after my 4-year-old niece received the very hot Zhou-Zhou pet hamster for Christmas, I pointed out that the toy was essentially a robot, with some basic obstacle avoidance skills. She replied matter-of-factly: “It’s not a robot. It’s a pet.”

These mini-generation gaps are most visible in the communication and entertainment choices made by different age groups. According to a survey last year by Pew, teenagers are more likely to send instant messages than slightly older 20-somethings (68 percent versus 59 percent) and to play online games (78 percent versus 50 percent).

Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and the author of the coming “Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn,” has also drawn this distinction between what he calls the Net Generation, born in the 1980s, and the iGeneration, born in the ’90s and this decade.

Now in their 20s, those in the Net Generation, according to Dr. Rosen, spend two hours a day talking on the phone and still use e-mail frequently. The iGeneration — conceivably their younger siblings — spends considerably more time texting than talking on the phone, pays less attention to television than the older group and tends to communicate more over instant-messenger networks.

Dr. Rosen said that the newest generations, unlike their older peers, will expect an instant response from everyone they communicate with, and won’t have the patience for anything less.

“They’ll want their teachers and professors to respond to them immediately, and they will expect instantaneous access to everyone, because after all, that is the experience they have growing up,” he said. “They should be just like their older brothers and sisters, but they are not.”

The boom of kid-focused virtual worlds and online games like Club Penguin and Moshi Monsters especially intrigues Mizuko Ito, a cultural anthropologist and associate researcher at the University of California Humanities Research Institute.

Dr. Ito said that children who play these games would see less of a distinction between their online friends and real friends; virtually socializing might be just as fulfilling as a Friday night party. And they would be more likely to participate actively in their own entertainment, clicking at the keyboard instead of leaning back on the couch.

That could give them the potential to be more creative than older generations — and perhaps make them a more challenging target for corporate marketers. “It’s certainly no longer true that kids are just blindly consuming what commercial culture has to offer,” Dr. Ito said.

Another bubbling intra-generational gap, as any modern parent knows, is that younger children tend to be ever more artful multitaskers. Studies performed by Dr. Rosen at Cal State show that 16- to 18-year-olds perform seven tasks, on average, in their free time — like texting on the phone, sending instant messages and checking Facebook while sitting in front of the television.

People in their early 20s can handle only six, Dr. Rosen found, and those in their 30s perform about five and a half.

That versatility is great when they’re killing time, but will a younger generation be as focused at school and work as their forebears?

Posted by Carlos Olin Montalvo at 7:06 AM 0 comments  

Gumby creator Art Clokey dies at 88

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Gumby creator Art Clokey dies at 88: "Animator Art Clokey, whose bendable creation Gumby became a pop culture phenomenon through decades of toys, revivals and satires, died Friday. He was 88."

Posted by Carlos Olin Montalvo at 11:36 AM 0 comments  

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