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?

Comments
  1. bejewell says:

    Something can definitely be said for remaining unaware of the expectations placed upon you at an early age. It’s a lot to live up to. But I have every faith that our Generation Z and beyond will spawn at least a few socially aware geniuses who will find some way to right the wrongs we’ve done. (And by “we” I mean George Bush. Okay, maybe that’s not TOTALLY fair, but lord, do I hate that man.) I really do have great hope for the future.

  2. fozmeadows says:

    Trust me: you’re not alone in loathing the Bushman. He’s not even running my country (officially, anyway – curse thee, John Howard!) and I still want him as far away from important decisions as big Texas money can buy.

    Ultimately, I think I fall out on the side of Hope For The Future. I think we’ve gone through a social teething phase with all the malarkey about helicopter parents and their cotton-wool methods, but we’ve starting to get our act together. My kids might even be normal.

    Actually, no, that’s a complete lie. Given the genes they’re destined to inherit, I think ‘normal’ draws a bow so long that even Odysseus couldn’t string it.

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