Cohort, age and period

by Henry Farrell on October 7, 2008

Two current debates about generations and what they mean. First, Siva Vaidhyanathan’s “recent article”: in the _Chronicle of Higher Education_, expressing skepticism about the concept of “Digital Natives”:

Gomez writes. “For this generation — which Googles rather than going to the library — print seems expensive, a bore, and a waste of time.” When I read that, I shuddered. I shook my head. I rolled my eyes. And I sighed. I have been hearing some version of the “kids today” or “this generation believes” argument for more than a dozen years of studying and teaching about digital culture and technology. … Every class has a handful of people with amazing skills and a large number who can’t deal with computers at all. A few lack mobile phones. … almost none know how to program or even code text with Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). Only a handful come to college with a sense of how the Internet fundamentally differs from the other major media platforms in daily life. College students in America are not as “digital” as we might wish to pretend. And even at elite universities, many are not rich enough. All this mystical talk about a generational shift and all the claims that kids won’t read books are just not true.

Second, Matt Yglesias on whether it’s important that the “kids love Obama”:

I used to sometimes think that the relatively left-wing views of the under-30 generation were basically just a reflection of the fact that the under-30 cohort contains many fewer non-hispanic whites than does the over-30 cohort. This new report from Amanda Logan and David Madlan makes it clear that’s not right — young whites have substantially more progressive views on a whole range of key issues than do older whites … if you hunt down a copy of the current issue of The Atlantic you should find … a piece by yours truly observing that the present day conservative coalition seems to mostly be stuck with the shrinking slices of the demographic pie. This data shows us one of the major driving factors behind that.

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