Defining the 'iGeneration': Not just a geeky bunch of kids

After two years of writing about the 'iGeneration', my colleague and I sat down to redefine the term, and to settle the ongoing war of words in relation to who the 'iGeneration' really are in this modern day and age.

It occurred to me a few weeks ago that seeing as the technology world is ever developing, changing shape and form and pulling out multiple wild cards to throw everyone else off scent, the 'iGeneration' is a loose and relatively undefined term.

The iGeneration is not "just another name" for the Generation Z, nor does it indicate a clear cut group of people. It's a sub-group of younger people who already exist, and just because Bill Gates once said it does not and should not set it in stone. He was wrong, by the way.

I know, it's a little late in the game after two years blogging to pull a definition out of my arse, but it had to be done. Elliot Harrison, good friend and contributing guest poster on this blog, and I, sat down over a cafetiere of coffee so thick and strong, it was like drinking Plimsolls, to determine exactly who we are and where we fit in.

This was more a by-product of the book we were writing, funnily enough about the 'iGeneration', but it worked off the presumption that everybody knew what this term meant in the first place.

The typical Wikipedia and Google defined 'iGeneration' in our opinion is old, outdated and simply not accurate. Not only this, but it's written by a contribution of multiple writers over many regions and over time, and not directly contributed to by the members of the self-defined group.

So we took a stab at it, and this essentially makes up a good chunk of the first chapter. We're not arrogant enough to say, "this is the definition, disregard everything you previously knew", but this is a first hand, detailed and highly thought about definition that it seems has not been written before.

The terms ‘Generation Y’ and the ‘iGeneration’ are two labels bandied around without great thought as to what each term refers to. Often these terms are mistaken as one in the same thing, though it is understandable as to why the two are often confused. The two are not synonymous though do relate to each other.

You should appreciate that this is not an easy explanation to write. The terms are both precise and yet loose due to the constant evolution of technology, society and electronics, which they make an effort to partly define. However, the labels have been to some extent been picked out of thin air.

At this point in 2010, the term known as the ‘iGeneration’ was coined flippantly and without care given to what it referred to. Any given definition until now should be considered dated and tenuous to say the least. This definition attempts to set the record straight in what the iGeneration has become from its initial original conception, the means by which it represents and the collective it describes.

In short, the Generation Y is the blanket, fixed term to describe today’s youth; those aged roughly 18-30, often those working their way up from low level employment (“fast track”) or students in higher education at university (“slow track”). The Generation Z on the other hand is the even younger youth, those still in compulsory or K-12 education, and are brought up through primary and secondary socialisation on technological means. Their dependency on technology is still yet to be seen as maturity may or may not be a major player in their interaction and development with future technologies.

For the sake of this article, the Generation Z is awash with possibility; they represent the extreme future and only time can tell their impact upon the future, and are irrelevant for now. The Generation Y represents the next wave of development for our economy, our employment market, governments and our societies. As a note, both of the authors of this definition are members of the Generation Y and are well qualified to provide an in-depth, objective exploration into the inner workings and outcomes of this constantly, perpetual generational development.

The Generation Y, like its younger Generation Z are both fixed concepts in that the terms make an effort to represent; and specifically identify a point in recent developments of interaction with technology. The iGeneration is a more specific, in that the Generation Y refers to the collective of individuals between the rough ages of 18-30 who have been brought up on technology. Out of this collective, the iGeneration refers to a smaller proportion of the Generation Y where by the users actively engage with technology in its development, progression, and its use in the workplace, so that the technology can evolve within the means of the generation.

As you would have most likely guessed, the word 'iGeneration' is derived from the Apple lineup of popular products which especially took off in the younger market, specifically the iPod music device and more recently the iPhone. The little 'i' and the subsequent capital second letter is a homage to Apple's impact on today's youth, though the company does not own the rights to the term.

The iGeneration also represents a change in not only methods but attitudes and values also. With examples of social media and social networking, developing from widely used yet experimental MySpace in the early 2000’s to Facebook towards the end of the decade. One of the key factors of social networking was the increased growth of the web and mobile web access, finding its way into more and more households and especially to the younger generations as the result.

The web was no longer limited to the business environment and grew to harbour more recreational activity. The Internet was an academic achievement in its infancy, and so be it the World Wide Web, developed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee at CERN (Center for European Organization for Nuclear Research), now famous for the Large Hadron Collider. The iGeneration could be considered socialites by which technology became the means of isolated socialisation – allowing access to your friends, colleagues and family’s social lives from the comfort of your desk or laptop.

A defining factor to the iGeneration is the progression from schooling and instituinalised academia into professional circles and environments. Because the iGeneration harnesses their knowledge of the importance of technology this enables them to advocate major changes to culture in their respective industries. The principles of Industry have not been unchanged; though it is rare to find a profession nowadays which does not harness technology to its fullest means.

Some professions have been created as a direct result of the capabilities of the iGeneration – such as online enterpreneurial projects and services of social implementation. MySpace for example, some consider to be the first social network, was founded, created and developed by older members of the iGeneration with this, a precedent was set in allowing Facebook to be developed in a similar, yet more refined capacity. This in turn allowed Twitter begin its social importance as a separate extension to the ‘status update’ Facebook provides its users.

The iGeneration is all about communication and its varied manifestations; speech seems no longer important in a world where emails can be sent at the touch of a button and status updates can publish mood, feeling and current status.

Yet the industries seemingly untouched by technology, the iGeneration are using their inerent online social skills in progressing vital areas of their industry through public relations, marketing and sales. The iGeneration is conscious of its knowledge; the importance of it within industry and actively engages with new approaches to develop the working environment into something easily engageable and productive. It is vital to remember that the iGeneration actively and naturally engages with technology.

However, moreoever they almost unknowingly understands the possibilities technology has and implements it into places which before seemed technologically redundant. The iGeneration sets precedents for the uses of technology and understands the limitations of human action and uses technology as an extension of the body through which to be increasingly productive. Smartphones enable the iGeneration individual to perpetually be in the workplace should they so wish. The device allows vital and varied communication to others, be they colleagues in business, friends or even enemies.

Though members of the iGeneration are also increasingly forward facing, they care as much about personal development as they do about a software update on their phone. Technology enables the iGeneration to self publicise and to be exposed in a way which may seem attractive to potential employers or even to friends and colleagues.

There. That was simple enough.


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