004: The App Generation by Howard Gardner and Katie Davis

by Gerard


004.6780835: Gardner, Howard and Katie Davis. The App Generation: How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013. 208 pp. ISBN 978-0-300-19621-4.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 000: Computer Science, Information, and General Works
  • 004: Data processing and computer science
  • 004.6: Interfacing and communications
  • 004.67: Wide-area networks
  • 004.678: Internet
  • +0835: Young people twelve to twenty

First came the telephone, then the television, then the Internet, and now the app. Apps are designed to make a task simpler, a search faster, or a day timelier. But what happens when apps pervade a society? At what level to automated programs change the people using them? Young people today between the ages of 15 and 25 have a hard time recalling a world without electronic devices, without smartphones, or without the Internet. Howard Gardner and Katie Davis, in The App Generation, tackle the subject and along the way, learn about the fundamental social and moral landscape of a generation raised in the digital age.

Gardner and Davis focus their attention on what they call the three I’s: identity, intimacy, and imagination. In the digital world, identity is fully customizable and can be carefully constructed by what the user posts in online forums and image galleries. Intimacy is gauged by how users interact or nurture their social connections online. Lastly, imagination is just that, but it is also measured by how different relationships and creations are viewed online. Their research integrates psychological, sociological, and philosophical studies to get at just how apps are interacting with individuals and even society as a whole. Many different angles are taken in their investigation, including focus groups and online messages.

For the most past, the authors get at what they are looking for: a better picture of how the current generation views the world through apps and what that means for the future of society. There a few times when a one-off comment is seen as an indicator for a whole group, but the discussion of the “app attitude” is fun and pertinent. While I was drawn more to the comments from individual Internet content creators, the dual fields of computer science and psychology definitely keep this book in the academics’ arena. It reads fairly quickly and has a good amount of statistics about today’s app users. An interesting but not outstanding book.