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August 13, 2009

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Generations

I’m only now digging into Joshua Glenn’s generations, recommended by Tim—but I gotta tell you, this is too much fun. Jason Kottke provides a handy menu; in particular, I recommend reading about the New Gods, the OGX, and of course: the Net generation.

That last label seems really right to me, by the way. It’s become increasingly clear, based on nostalgia that’s welling up even now in our late 20s, that this generation is going to find itself, at age 90, still swapping tales of the first BBSes we ever dialed, the first web pages we ever wrote. “And it was by hand, too!”

Now, I have no idea if this is true, but I like the sound of it:

Whereas OGXers and PCers enjoy brooding over the past, assembling fragments of past cultural moments into collages in various media, Netters take a less complicated approach. They just dig the past, and slip it on like a Halloween costume. (Paging Andre 3000, Amanda Palmer, Sisqo, Pink, and Jack White!) It’s no longer the case that Americans in their 20s and early 30s want their reheated entertainments freshened up with air quotes. These days, they prefer taking it straight.

Funny, though, to see the list of notable births from 1979 (which is my year, too, if just barely):

1979: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Claire Danes, Kate Hudson, Foxy Brown, Rachael Leigh Cook, Mena Suvari, Rosario Dawson, Adam Brody, Brandy, Lance Bass, Pete Wentz, Norah Jones, Pink, Bam Margera, Adam Levine, Avey Tare, Nathan Followill, Alison Lohman, Brandon Routh, Chris Daughtry, Dan Auerbach, Nick Stahl. Elsewhere: Pete Doherty, Heath Ledger, Evangeline Lilly, Corinne Bailey Rae, Petra Nemcova, Sophie Dahl, Matt Tong.

Wait, is there seriously not a single writer on that list? It’s all actors and musicians! Something is amiss, here.

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Posted August 13, 2009 at 12:00 | Comments (5) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted, Society/Culture

Comments

Well, I'm a writer, and I was born in 1979. :-)

I think part of the issue is that 1) actors and musicians peak younger than most writers do and 2) if you scan lists of famous people born in 1979, it's a lot of actors and musicians; places like Variety are the ones keeping the lists.

It's not as though 1980, 81, 82, or later have any writers either. So far as I can tell, the youngest writer (not counting Perez Hilton) is Jonathan Safran Foer, who was born in 1977.

[PS: Did a double check to make sure, and I missed (at least) Diablo Cody, born in 78.]

Yeah, to be clear, what I meant was: Oh come on, there have GOT to be notable writers/thinkers born in these years -- not "alas, why are we a generation of actors?"

Damn you Claire Dane for taking my spot in the Yale class of 2001! Damn you Baz Luhrmann for giving her the film role that got her in! Damn you!!!

I saw that Kottke post today too and really enjoyed Glenn's observations.

The one thing I disagreed with was his assertion, w/r/t the "Net Generation", that we "[don't] remember a time before fast computers and Internet service". So untrue! Luckily, a couple of commenters took issue.

One had this to say:

I think you underestimate our memories of pre-Internet days, though. Similar to our perceptions of the dying industrial economy, our perceptions of the analog era were that of a child growing up with an old dog — we knew we’d missed some mysterious heyday, we perceived it wouldn’t be around much longer, and so we appreciated it. I was born in 1978 and I remember pre-computer-popularity and pre-internet days clearly. I think part of this sub-gen’s enthusiasm for and ability with tech is that we *came of age as it began*, and our psyched are thus amenable to technological adaptation *itself*. We didn’t necessarily create, or watch it begin from afar, but we also didn’t “wake up” already floating dumbly in a sea of it. We saw it start, were given opportunities to merge with it, and did so. And the rewards of that adaptation stamp a kind of optimism and possibility on us that Xers seem to lack, and a kind of appreciation and perspective that Yers don’t seem to grasp.

I loved that, and put it on my Tumblr, and got a great reblog from a woman who has been a computer geek since the 80's. It's too long to post here in the comments, since I've written a long enough comment as it is, but I enjoyed this:

At the same time, DUH OF COURSE I REMEMBER PRE-INTERNET DAYS, THE INTERNET WASN’T POPULAR UNTIL I WAS 19 YEARS OLD. I hand-wrote two or three letters per week, and mailed them, yes, through the mail, to my friends around the country, from elementary school until I was a sophomore in college. I made mix tapes (which took forever). ... I grew up totally analog, so when digital came around, I jumped on it. It was the newest-coolest and it made everything else so new and cool I couldn’t believe it.

It's funny how the analog experience was universal. Letters and mixtapes begat email and playlists, but they were also such completely different animals.

Thesis: the Net generation is the first generation that Glenn doesn't [have the tools to] understand.

This is because he's a PCer, so it's the first generation for which he's projecting an identity for people younger than himself. This is a very tricky business; you don't have lived memory OR archival records to consult, but (more often than not) just a loose sense of what the kids today are up to.

I also think that the closer you get to defining generations (rather than epochs) in terms of their communication media, the more quickly you run into broad class differences. Generalizations make sense for a certain kind of middle-to-upper-middle class experience -- the kids a few years back but they start to fall apart once you start peering around their edges.

Also, the folks who belong to these generations take it a little more personally, because, um, they're right there next to you.

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