Title: Grown Up Digital
Author: Don Tapscott
Publisher: McGraw Hill
Year: October 2008
Hardcover: 368 pgs.
Companion Website: Grown Up Digital
Don Tapscott has a deserved reputation as a prolific, adept, and enthusiastic futurist author. However, his personal realities make him an ill-serving advocate for the ‘Net Generation’. The book’s opening salvo of corporate approval rightfully informs a young reader of the work’s intended audience. This work is about the Net Generation, not for it, and if the axiom of never trusting anyone over thirty is to be adhered to, the sixty-three year old Tapscott deserves a double-dose of scrutiny.
According to Grown Up Digital, the twenty year span of individuals aged between eleven and thirty-one at the time of the book’s publication has acquired a reputation for being selfish, narcissistic, violent, and, worst of all things, unemployable. Tapscott supplies strong evidence to the contrary from the research conducted by his thinktank nGenera; with approximately ten thousand interviewees of all ages, no one can fault the project’s scope . And he is right–this is a bright generation, with ingenuity and conviction. However, he is perhaps more selective with examples than he should be if he hopes to address the needs and wants of the Net Generation at large. Effie, the Princetonian Google employee mentioned in Chapter Six, exemplifies only the most privileged of current graduates; his chapter on education advocates the proper introduction of technology into the classroom without mentioning how failing school districts should acquire the money to do so. Chapter Six may advocate a utopian, Googlesque workplace, but the capital investment required for such a heaven is too considerable to ignore.
The book does have its strengths; the writing itself is strong and concise, though Tapscott’s fondness for juvenile neologisms remains–Growing Up Digital introduced his readers to the word ‘cyberbro’, this work gives us ‘N-Fluence’– and his tendencies towards self-aggrandization are as strong as ever. He reminds us that he has eleven books to his name and a rip-snorting family band, but he can’t be bothered to include the name of the Ogilvy “young Australian” who developed the award-winning Dove ‘Evolution’ television spot (Tim Piper).
After eleven books, his ability to write a readable sociological text is not up for discussion, yet the book suffers from its clashing purposes. The first four chapters pay tribute to the strengths of the Net Generation; his only real concern is a generational ignorance of Facebook filters. This is not unwarranted, and the notion that a respected technological guru wants to shepherd the development of the Net Generation has its charms. But Tapscott is just as happy to tell marketers exactly how to get us to spend our money, and the final chapter, ‘In Defense of the Future’ is founded on concept that the future that young people strive for is one that Baby Boomers have good reason to fear.
Don Tapscott may be for the Net Gen, but I can’t say the same for Grown Up Digital. There’s no particularly strong reason for a twentysomething to read this book, but if you happen to be a middle-aged bureaucrat without a younger friend to connect with over a beer, this is the book for you.