Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Grown up Digital summary

Grown Up Digital is Don Tapscott’s follow up to his 1997 book Growing Up Digital. The book is directed toward older generations like the Baby Boomers and Generation X, and aims to help them understand and accept what Tapscott calls the Net Generation (Net Gen). Anyone born between 1977 and 1997 is a member of the Net Gen, or someone who has grown up in a digital world.

Tapscott believes that older generations have a negative view of the Net Gen and that it stems from a digital and generational gap. He argues that growing up digital and using technologies like the internet, cell phones, and Web 2.0 makes the Net Gen fundamental different from previous generations. If given the chance, Tapscott predicts the Net Generation will make unprecedented and largely positive changes to society using digital tools.

The book is separated into three sections. The first section introduces the Net Generation and highlights how they are different from previous generations using eight characteristics or norms. Some examples of these norms are; the desire of freedom in choice and expression, wanting to customize and personalize, demanding of integrity and openness, and the desire to collaborate. Tapscott uses these eight norms to show the motivations behind the changes that the Net Geners are bringing to education and the workforce.

The second section of the book details some of these changes, along with changes to family values and consumerism. One of the changes to education Tapscott advocates is the move from teacher orientated (lecture) teaching toward a more student orientated one, a style focusing on student input and collaboration. Some workplace changes by the Net Gen include having fun, a desire for speed, and a work anywhere attitude. Tapscott argues that institutions like education and business will need to change and adapt to these new styles of work and learning or they will fall behind and cause further harm to society.

The final section explains how the Net Gen will transform society by changing the way governments operate and taking social causes to a global scale. Tapscott uses examples like Obama’s presidential campaign, Facebook, and TakingItGlobal as proof that the Net Generation has changed politics and citizen engagement. Tapscott believes the Net Generation can use Web 2.0 tools and networks to bring about positive changes quicker and globally.

The tone of the book is overwhelmingly positive, and in favor of all the changes the author feels the Net Gen is bringing to society. Tapscott debunks the majority of the criticisms against Net Geners using his own research and examples. Most of his examples are specific Net Generation success stories.


  1. This sounds like an interesting book, although I'm always leery of claims that any generation is "fundamentally different" from another one. After all, the Internet and its norms were developed by Baby Boomers and Generation X, to a large extent, so those norms can hardly be completely foreign to them. And while I do think that growing up with a lot of technology changes your perspectives on technology, I think a lot of the other, more social changes that get attributed to technology are really just the overall attitudes of society changing at what happened to be the same time.

  2. Actually, I didn't find the book to be a very worthwhile read. There are some interesting ideas and perspectives but the majority of the book serves to promote Net Generation stereotypes as a positive thing. The author has a very specific objective.

  3. I'm interested to hear more about this book in your presentation, Richard. I wasn't aware that Tapscott had done a follow-up to "Growing Up Digital," which I only know because it is cited by the author of the book that I am reading for class ("Generation Digital" by Kathryn Montgomery). I have been thinking about generational stereotyping and how such stereotypes affect perspectives in my community. We hosted an "Online Resources" workshop tonight at my library, and all the attendees were older people. One of the participants kept apologizing for asking questions and then compared herself negatively to a hypothetical nine-year-old. But, she didn't seem to have a negative view of the younger generation. If anything, she is impressed with their ease of use, though it is true that the people present at this workshop are interested in technology and they chose to attend. Does Tapscott talk about generations older than the two you mentioned?

  4. I should have written, "their general ease of use" when referring the "the younger generation"!

  5. I was wondering what Montgomery cited from "Growing Up Digital". I haven't read the book but a lot of the themes from it are presented again in "Grown Up Digital".

    Most of the negative stereotypes addressed in the book are based on previous studies that describe the Net Gen to be selfish, lazy, dumb, uncaring, etc. A good portion of the book is devoted to proving these studies wrong using Tapscott's own "4.5 million dollar" study.