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Roger Clarke's 'The iGeneration'

The iGeneration

Notes of 17 February 2010, revisions to 23 April 2010

Roger Clarke **

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The Generational Cohorts

For many decades, one conventional way for advertisers and marketers to segment the population has been according to the range within which a person's date of birth falls. The segments have been referred to as 'Generations' (even though that term has a longstanding meaning rather different from its connotations here).

People in any particular Generation are treated as members of a cohort that marches through time, carrying a cluster of characteristics with it. Different Generations had very different sets of formative influences, and as a result are posited to have very different values, attitudes and behaviours.

Those characteristics are commonly treated as being reliable and static. On the other hand, some clearly change as the cohort ages. For example, measures of risk-aversion commonly increase with age, and hence at least some aspects of behaviour, attitudes and values can be expected to 'mature' rather than remain consistent as the Generation moves through time, e.g. attitudes to privacy.

The notion is statistical (i.e. it applies 'generally') rather than intended to apply literally to each person in the relevant age-group. Viewed from the viewpoint of their Generation, some people are mis-fits who need to be allocated forward or backward a Generation; and others are simply outliers.

Many different variants of the Generations Model have been rationalised. Exhibit 1 differs a liitle from the norm firstly in that it simplifies the date-boundaries. Secondly, it dubs the most recent and as-yet least-understood group as the 'iGeneration'. The following section provides some preliminary discussion of how iGens differ from their predecessors.

Exhibit 1: The Generations

Generation
Indicative

Birth-Years

Indicative

Age in 2010

Silent / Seniors
1910-45

65-100

Baby Boomers – Early
1945-55
55-65
Baby Boomers – Late
1955-65
45-55
Generation X
1965-80
30-45
Generation Y
1980-95
15-30
The iGeneration
1995-
0-15


The iGeneration

Some key differences that authors note in relation to the most active of the Generations are as follows:

BB

GenX

GenY

There is general consensus that people born after about 1995 have had sufficiently different technology experiences from Gen-Y that they will have distinct values, attitudes and behaviour. In comparison with its predecessors, the shape of the latest Generation appears to look like this:

iGen

The term 'Generation I' has been suggested as a means of implying self-centredness, and of indicating a close association with the Internet. The variant 'The iGeneration' captures not only those two aspects, but also 'interactivity' (which was already a hallmark of GenY), the 'invisibility' of the technologies to them, and their 'immersion' in the world it offers. The term co-opts the 'i' associated with Apple products (initially the iPod and iTunes in 2001, and subsequently the iPhone and iPad in 2007 and 2010), in order to typify the recently-born in a way closely associated with device-usage. (The term emerged with those connotations at least as early as 2004, as the title of a track by Californian rapper MC Lars).

The proposition is that 'iGens', as consumers and as employees, will be particularly immersed in mobile culture. They will evidence attitudes, expectations and behaviour that reflect interactivity - but those interactions may be strongly associated with electronic communications.

A further dimension along which the Generations vary is the extent to which their lives are embedded in the real, or given over to the virtual. Each Generation has had greater and more intensive experience of things and events remote in space and time from themselves. Associated with this is a progressively increasing expectation of multiple identities, inventiveness and fantasy.


Author Affiliations

Roger Clarke is Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra. He is also a Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre at the University of N.S.W., and a Visiting Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the Australian National University.



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Created: 17 February 2010 - Last Amended: 23 April 2010 by Roger Clarke - Site Last Verified: 15 February 2009
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