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on 25 June 2009
With the publication of Don Tapscott's new book on the Net Generation ("Grown up Digital"), I could write "Go and read this book", but it might end up as a quote on the Dutch edition of this book (which I don't aspire!), while leaving out the second part of the quote "...because it is flawed in so many ways that it serves as a good textbook on how NOT to present your arguments in a (scientific) debate."
Tapscott's book is one of many books that tries to capture the essence of the current generation by stressing the impact of the technological developments on these youngster, especially Internet and popular applications such as Google, FaceBook, YouTube and others. This leads to a host of exclusive names such as `digital natives', `net generation', `Millennials', `Screenagers' and `generation Einstein'. Currently more research is becoming available that questions many assertions of these authors. What is more, one can seriously question the added value of speaking of generations. For instance, evidence points in the direction that differences in a generation can be as profound as differences between generations. I will write more elaborate about this in the upcoming publication `Wijs met Media' (`Medialiteracy'). Here, let me shortly zoom in on just one aspect: methodology.
If you want to make a statement on the use and experience of transportation: would you ask only car owners? And would you invite members of the Fiat 500 fan club to contribute anecdotes on how they experience going for point A to point B? If the answer is no, would you then gather data on the current generation by asking only internet users on the influence of technology and new media on their behaviour and would you use a FaceBook community as a way to tap into the experience of a whole generation. Do you? Well, Don Does.
Would you disqualify scientific research with the remark that laboratory research cannot capture the complexity of reality and replace this with your personal observations of your own children? Would you leave out data on other generations, preventing any comparison among generations? Would you step over any data that is contrary to your point with the remark "anyway"? And would you beforehand disqualify any counterargument by stating that those arguments are based on fear, fear for the new? Well, Don does.
Would you ask the CEO of Google whether he thinks his employees represent the `dumbest generation', and take its denial as part of the proof that the Net Generation is media smart, and are full-fledged communication professionals? Would you criticise other research for using surveys and base your own research on...surveys? And would you spend four million dollar on research on the Net Generation and present as recurring `evidence' the behaviour and quotes of your own two children Niki and Alex? Well, Don does.
Tapscott disqualifies the current educational praxis as a hundred year old monster that needs a fundamental shake-up. Less `broadcasting' more interaction. Certainly a point of discussion but not with the arguments Tapscott brings to the table. But I'll give him one point, as a `student of methodology' (p. 305) Tappscott hasn't picked up fundamental principles of doing research while in a `traditional' class. Maybe he should have attended classes more or `interacted' with someone knowledgeable... But Don didn't.