The App Generation How Today's Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World Howard Gardner, Katie Davis

Publication date:
25 Sep 2014
Yale University Press
272 pages: 210 x 140mm
3 b-w illus.
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From the famed Harvard psychologist and an expert on the impact of digital media technologies, a riveting exploration of the power of apps to shape our young people—for better or for worse

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.

Howard Gardner is Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and senior director of Harvard Project Zero, an educational research group. He lives in Cambridge, MA. Katie Davis is assistant professor, University of Washington Information School, where she studies the role of digital media technologies in adolescents’ lives. She lives in Seattle, WA.

"An ambitious and admirable project. . . . Meticulously researched and thoughtful."—New York Times Book Review

"[The App Generation] possesses an interesting insight. 'Young people growing up in our time are not only immersed in apps, . . . they’ve come to think of the world as an ensemble of apps, to see their lives as a string of ordered apps, or perhaps, in many cases, a single, extended, cradle-to-grave app.'"—Dwight Garner, New York Times

"Many of the observations . . . are illuminated with careful thought and research [and] offer a readable and intelligent summary of where we are today."—Josh Glancy, The Sunday Times

"Gardner is a renowned psychologist who has long decried box-ticking behaviourist approaches to education . . . he and Davis . . . build a strong case that a dependency on apps is having a reductive effect on young people."—Gautam Malkani, The Financial Times

"Provocative . . . Provides useful frameworks for future research."—Publishers Weekly

"[A] necessary book."—Roger Lewis, Daily Mail

"[I]n the process of setting out their findings, they raise important questions: what is what they’re calling 'the app generation' – the young people who have never lived without the internet, without smartphones – actually like?"—Jacob Mikanowski, Prospect Magazine

"Here we have a serious consideration that a generation has grown up with an emotional aesthetic as instrumental as their technology. That is, this generation approaches intimacy, identity, and imagination through the prism of the apps that have surrounded them. Gardner and Davis further consider the proposition that 'What can’t be an app doesn’t matter.' But the authors do more than this. They approach their subject in a constructive spirit, providing analytical tools to distinguish among apps, the ones that will stifle and the ones that will nurture. In the end, they see a way forward: We are responsible, individually and in our communities and families to use technology in ways that open up the world rather that close it down. The App Generation is not anti-technology; it simply puts technology in its place."—Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other

"The App Generation deals with a crucial issue for our future, and it is a pioneering and prophetic work in its genre."—Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

"This book is must reading for parents, teachers and policy makers. It presents a portrait of today’s young people, not in terms of the traditional historical events of their lives, but instead the digital technology that shaped this generation. It compellingly and powerfully examines the impact, consequences, and implications for their and society’s future."—Arthur Levine, President of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation & former President of Teachers College, Columbia University

"Howard Gardner is one of America’s most celebrated developmental psychologists and public intellectuals. His latest work is always worth reading."—Robert Putnam, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

"Conversations across four digital 'generations' start and end the book. They provide intriguing examples of novel practices and performances in the areas of identity, intimacy, and imagination, as well as what it means to be a true 'digital native.' Gardner carries his groundbreaking work on visual creativity into the digital age, showing the increasing complexity and innovation in teen artwork between 1990 and 2011. At the same time, Gardner & Davis demonstrate a parallel decline into conventionality and informality of literary expression in the visual environment of the digital age."—Patricia M. Greenfield, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, UCLA and Director, Children’s Digital Media Center @ Los Angeles