For anyone interested in generational change and culture, I reccomend this fascinating article on Generation Z. While I disagree with making broad generalisations about generational personality types, there’s something wonderful (and a little awe-making) about the prospect of seeing how these genuine digital natives grow up. It’s not just the presence of computers in school, but the omnipresent fluency with which they’re used, and from what age – totally different to my own experience, when the new technology was still novel and effectively tacked on, curriculum-wise, to the old standards. The idea of environmental awareness at a young age is similarly exciting, and an interesting social experiement in its own right: despite our love of self-analysis, has anyone ever sat down and marvelled at the fact that one generation of human beings can instill an ethical structure in their successors that they themselves don’t share to the same degree? That we are, in this sense, able to successfully transmit a do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do policy? How remarkable is that?
Reading the article, my other thought was on meta-analysis. In wondering how Gen Z will evolve, the writer considered a wealth of factors – the economy, environment, politics, materialism, parenting, schools, technology and so on – but not the impact of public generational commentary. By which I mean: now more than at any other time, there is a wealth of visible media speculation on the nature of Gen Z compared to their predecessors, how they’ll turn out, what they’ll achieve, and given the very fact that Gen Z is so well-informed and socially literate, it seems impossible that they not notice this, and react. In this sense, the experiment of vocal social analysis is not a double blind: there is nothing to separate the speculation of the observers from influencing the behaviour of their subjects. And given how much hope is currently being invested in Gen Z – can they stop global warming? reduce carbon emissions? build a sustainable future? – I’ve got to wonder: will these visible expectations ultimately prove positive, or detrimental?