Final Blog – Identity

Herring, Susan. “Questioning the Generational Divide: Technological Exoticism and Adult Constructions of Online Youth Identity.” pgs. 288-308

 In the last blog of the course, we perhaps arrive at what constitutes one of the most fundamental aspects of modern day media studies: identity. What perhaps primarily propel ‘media studies 2.0’ (Gauntlett, 2007) are us, Generation Y. Although this might seem overly simplistic and maybe even borderline narcissistic, there has never been such a radical shift in our understanding of the media for so long. However, this is the approach that many academic scholars not of Generation Y would say. They provide the definitions of today’s youth.

 A concept that Herring explores is the adult classification and interpretation of today’s youth as the “Internet Generation”. She argues that it was not technology that primarily influences the “Internet generation”, but rather our ideas which are expressed for the first time threw this medium. We can go further to argue that the Baby Boomers and Generation X were not so different to Generation Y. In the wake of the horrors of the Vietnam War, amidst the political and moral blurring of the lies between good and evil, the Baby Boomer (BB) Generation rose against their conservative parents, embracing ‘uplifting’ narcotics and freedom of speech. Their identity was broadcast through television spectacles of mass BB protests voicing their condemnation of conservatives. Yet despite this, many continue to insist that Gen Y is far more rebellious than their parents. Strangely enough, these opinions come from BB themselves.

Herring also goes on to define the identity of today’s youth. Today’s so called “Net Generation” is in fact not the first purely digital generation. Recollecting my own youth, I still remember my childhood devotion to children’s TV programs and endless Disney VHS’s. I also remember the confusing Title Menus of the then brand new DVDs. I remember when we got our first computer, shortly followed by dial up internet connection and how I spend hours fascinated by Microsoft word and internet flash gaming sites. I embraced these new changes.

 Yet, I remember the days of traditional board game and television entertainment, the days of analogue technology. It is not until 2050, as estimated by Herring, that a first ‘true’ Internet Generation will be clearly established and identified, where reliable accounts of the pre-internet life would be found in archives and historical accounts. By this definition, the identity of Gen Y cannot specifically be defined as the “Net Generation” but rather as the analogue-to-digital transitional generation. Herring concludes by suggesting that the adult construction of the “digital youth” as a generational identity signals the call for new approaches and rethinking of youth identity and new media research.

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