Generation M

I noticed a quote on Susan Mernit’s blog from a short essay that appeared over at Epeus’ Epigone about what the web means to various generations of users

My generation draws the Internet as a cloud that connects everyone; the younger generation experiences it as oxygen that supports their digital lives. The old generation sees this as a poisonous gas that has leaked out of their pipes, and they want to seal it up again.

I’m not sure I agree with the point about the older generation wanting to stuff the internet back in the pipe though, as many older people are enthusiastic adopters of the net and can often teach their Grandchildren a thing or two.

But it did get me thinking about how different generations view the mobile phone.

To anyone over 40, they see the mobile as landline that you can conveniently wander around with. They can still probably remember making their first mobile phone call along the lines of

“Hi Mum, guess where I am?”
“I don’t know dear. Are you at home or in the office?”
“No – I’m standing in the middle of a field!”
“Gosh, are you dear? How’s that possible then?”

People were still having these types of conversations about 10 years ago.

To this generation, the mobile is a phone first and foremost, though they may have embraced sms.

To the first true mobile generation (let’s loosely say that they’re under 40, although in practice they’re a little younger), the mobile is something else entirely. It’s the very engine of their social lives and centre of their attention most of the time. Without their mobile, they’d be no more capable of dating and maintaining a relationship or arranging to spend time with friends and actually managing to meet up with them on the day, than a Boeing 777 is of crossing the Atlantic without any engines.

However, the mobile still primarily a communication device, which can be decorated physically and digitally. And maybe they’ve learned how to find out train times over WAP.

While we’ve seen an unbelievable transition in a relatively short period, it’s the next generation of mobile users (certainly less than 20 today) who will take the mobile towards its true potential, with the rest of us doing the equivalent of “What, in a field?”

These people will adopt all the social functionality of their seniors, but the mobile will take over from the PC as the single most important digital device for accessing the web, as well their personal entertainment hub for music and gameplay, not to mention the recorder and archivist of their lives and proof of identity.

Remove the mobile from that generation and they probably won’t actually be able to foperate meaningfully on any level of their lives – work, play or functional.

Stand by for Mobile 2.0.

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