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The App Generation    by Howard Gardner & Katie Davis order for
App Generation
by Howard Gardner
Order:  USA  Can
Yale University Press, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

There's no denying the fact that young people today are locked into their digital media. From posting their latest antics on sites like Facebook and YouTube to listening to music or playing their favorite games, teens are tuned into the latest technology.

In The App Generation: How Today's Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World, developmental psychologists Howard Gardner and Katie Davis discuss how today's youth differ from those who grew up before the digital era.

As the book's title indicates, the authors examine the impact of new technologies on three vital areas of adolescent life: identity, intimacy and imagination. Citing their work and the research of others, Gardner and Davis look at how apps have made young people app-dependent, and they uncover some disturbing drawbacks of app use. Conversely, there are also some positive consequences associated with app usage and these are also addressed.

With over three million apps available to young people on their smartphones, iPads and eReaders, the members of the App Generation, as the authors' dub them, can well be individually defined by which apps they use.

'Apps can short-circuit identity formation, pushing you into being someone else's avatar (that of your parents, your friends, or one formulated by some app producer) or, by foregrounding various options, they can allow you to approach identity formation more deliberately, holistically, thoughtfully,' write the authors. 'You may end up with a stronger and more powerful identity, or you may succumb to a prepackaged identity or to endless role diffusion.'

Looking at intimacy on the negative side, apps may encourage superficial ties and discourage face-to-face interactions with other people. On the other hand, they can also expose a person to a wider world and offer novel ways of interacting or relating to people from a broader cultural spectrum.

When considering the influence apps can have on fostering or not fostering imagination, there's quite a spread. 'Apps can make you lazy, discourage the development of new skills, limit you to mimicry or tiny trivial tweaks or tweets or they can open up whole new worlds for imagining, creating, producing, remixing, even forging new identities and enabling rich forms of intimacy,' state Gardner and Davis.

By providing the pros and cons of app usage, this little book attempts to evaluate some of the issues this technology raises while underscoring the challenges and opportunities that continual reliance on apps presents.

At just barely 200 pages in length, both parents and teachers will want to consult this book to further understand the role apps play in molding the way young people behave and think.

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