I recently read a moderately interesting article from NPR about generation names, where they came from, and how they evolve. Towards the end, the author mentioned how the generation now referred to as Millennials were, for a long time, called Generation Y–a nod to my group, Generation X. The Gen Y name, according to the writer, was a placeholder utilized until the marketing people who drive these definitions felt that they had an adequate enough grasp of the overall group characteristics to slap a label on them.
Interesting, I thought, but what about my kids? There is no name for that generation, as yet, beyond “those damned kids and their loud, shitty music why can’t they stay out of my yard!” which isn’t, from a marketing or sociological standpoint, all that useful.
The leading term seems to be “iGen” in a nod to the technology which has been ubiquitous to these young people–the first generation to be born into the fully digital world. The “iGen” name also reflects the monstrous looming presence of the Apple Corporation, progenitor of much of the defining technology of the era.
The counter-argument, and it is a poignant one, is the appropriateness of naming a generation after dominant technology when so many of that generation are economically limited in access to much of that technology. I see the point, but I would argue that in the era we called “the space age” very few people actually got to go to space (some short-haired white guys, some dogs, and a few monkeys notwithstanding.)
It seems to me that within an age–or a generation–individuals are defined not just by their ownership or use of a defining element, but by their access–or lack of access–to the same. More precisely, in an age of the internet, a young person without access to the internet is equally effected, whether negatively or positively. Indeed, it could be argued that the negative relationship–or lack of relationship–is felt more profoundly than the positive, especially when their is a mainstream expectation that this access is universal.
My solution, of which I’m very proud, is to simply add a question mark to the favored “iGen” nomenclature. So, iGen becomes iGen? –at once recognizing the power of the definitive technology as well as the questions surrounding the equity of this definition amidst the social and economic inequity of access. Although the question remains: is it cynical, or just realistic, to name a generation after the individuals that the society of the time leaves behind? I wonder.
Please begin my historically significant Wikipedia page….here
Or read more here.