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

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

Summary: 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The typical Wikipedia and Google defined 'iGeneration' in our opinion is old, outdated and simply not accurate.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.

Topic: Apple

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  • Gen X are not Baby Boomers

    The Baby Boomers are the post war generation from the end of WW2 to the mid 60's where there was a high birth rate. Gen X, or the Unknown Generation, is from the early 60's to the early 80's. I believe in the US Gen X was referred to as the Baby Bust Gen as there was a large decline in the Birth rate.
    A Grain of Salt
  • RE: Defining the 'iGeneration': Not just a geeky bunch of kids

    When you look at GenY and GenZ, the predominance of late Baby Boomers and GenX, the professional/career minded tended to have their kids late in life - hence GenZ (I am one of these GenX parent with GenZ kids).<br><br>I'm still trying to wrap mt brain around your iGen definition and will add another entry later.
  • RE: Defining the 'iGeneration': Not just a geeky bunch of kids

    Reading your article a second time, one line quite catches the underlying line: "[i]The iGeneration also represents a change in not only methods but attitudes and values also[/i]."<br><br>I would rebut that your presumption that iGen is a sugset of GenY. It is more likely a secondary label that is applied to a subset of GenX,Y and Z. The definition of what defines the attitude is in my eyes correct but your definition limits the scope. <br><br>As a GenX professional with children ranging from GenY to GenZ, I would classify all members of my household as iGen.<br><br>From my perspective, iGen is a secondary label defining a "new" attitude modification of the exsiting Gen generation.<br><br>Nice article.
    • RE: Defining the 'iGeneration': Not just a geeky bunch of kids

      You are correct.
  • RE: Defining the 'iGeneration': Not just a geeky bunch of kids

    In New Zealand we just call them all 'People' & get on with it.
    Why does everyone have to have a 'generation...*'?
    What happen's when you run out of letters? Do you start on numbers?
    • RE: Defining the 'iGeneration': Not just a geeky bunch of kids

      @nz_helpdeskguy haha, you got that spot on, cheers!
    • RE: Defining the 'iGeneration': Not just a geeky bunch of kids

      @nz_helpdeskguy I couldn't agree more. What's all the need for this generation crap?
    • RE: Defining the 'iGeneration': Not just a geeky bunch of kids

      While I agree with you, the folks who write the history books will label it - hence the definition "people" will not be seen by succeeding generations of students.
    • RE: Defining the 'iGeneration': Not just a geeky bunch of kids

      Congrats. Best comment I read (or will read) today. I will toast to you this evening. Cheers.
      Schoolboy Bob
  • RE: Defining the 'iGeneration': Not just a geeky bunch of kids

    I miss the down arrow.
  • RE: Defining the 'iGeneration': Not just a geeky bunch of kids

    As someone who has studied generational differences in my work and in my last two books (Me, MySpace, and I: Parenting the Net Generation and Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn) I think it is admirable to try to define any generation and difficult at best. what my colleagues and I have done is to look at work values, core values, personal values and technology and media use. We have arrived at a different breakdown than you have but i think your reasoning is well thought out. The only generation that anyone agrees on completely is the Baby Boomer generation spanning from 1946-1964. After that it gets hazy. We look at Gen X as spanning from 1965-1979 although these are somewhat arbitrary and overlap with the Net Generation (1980s) and iGeneration (1990s). We have not yet tried to define those kids born in the new millennium because we simply don't have enough data yet. we do have several large studies comparing these groups/generations (or mini-generations as we like to call the last two) and they differ on media and technology "use", multitasking, socialization, communication and values. The "i" we use to indicate the Apple stuff plus other "i" tools/toys like the Wii, but also "individualized" which is the way these teens see the world.

    As an aside, I should point out that I feel it does a disservice to label any generation by a letter rather than a "concept". Granted, Gen X is now an accepted term but Gen Y, Gen Z, Millennials all miss the boat. The Net Generation is defined by their complete immersion in the Internet as the first generation to be captivated in its power and to exploit it. The iGeneration is the first to individualize or demand individualization and portability of their world including social networks and communication in general. It is no accident that teens now send and receive more than 3000 texts a month but only make and receive fewer than 200 phone calls. A phone is not a phone to them. It is a Wireless Mobile Device and this is a major defining feature of this generation.

    thanks for opening up this discussion. More of my work is at my website at or via email at LROSEN@CSUDH.EDU.
  • You're wrong on the i generation

    The "iGeneration" is about the current attitudes of today's youth: It all about [i][b]me[/b][/i]

    Twitter: "I" ate ice cream today, "I" amt shopping for shoes, "I" am hungray and "I"'m going out for a burger.

    Facebook: Who goes on facebook and say "What a great day! What did everybody do?" No, it's "I'm back from the shore", "I'm going to a concert", "I'm 'this or that"

    I deserve this; I want this; Give it to me! There are no losers, they're all winners, "I'm special, like eveyone else is"

    It's all about the change: Look at me, it's all about me!
    John Zern
    • RE: Defining the 'iGeneration': Not just a geeky bunch of kids

      @John Zern

      How is this behavior any different than any other generation? That is the same exact attitude the baby boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y have. The only difference is that they have a soapbox (Twitter, Facebook, etc) to give you this information in real time. They don't wait until the next family reunion to talk your ear off.
  • RE: Defining the 'iGeneration': Not just a geeky bunch of kids

    Apple and Jobs be damned forever for popularizing putting "i" in front of anything. I'd like to set my spam filter to kill any email header that includes it but have learned that unpleasant news must be accepted in order to enjoy the good.
  • RE: Defining the 'iGeneration': Not just a geeky bunch of kids

    I think that this generation is completely foreign to the baby boomers and possibly generation X. Generation Y, however, is the medium that will transgress society for the iGeneration to grow up in. Generation Y will be the reformists... iGeneration will take the ball and run with it.
  • I cannot believe how dumb you are . . .

    . . . dumb, and lazy.