Four Pillars: More on Preparing for Generation M

I’ve been poring over a recent presentation given by Lee Rainie, founding director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, entitled The New Media Ecology and How It Will Affect Work And Learning. You can follow a link to the pdf here.
I quote from its coda:

I think it is safe to say that those reared in this Information Age, those doing the work of learning and those who need to learn at work are likely to be:

  • More self-directed and less dependent on top-down instructions
  • Better arrayed to capture new information inputs
  • More reliant on feedback and response
  • More tied to group outreach and group knowledge
  • More open to cross-discipline insights, especially those that form during the creation of “tagged” taxonomies


  • More oriented towards people being their own individual nodes of production

As a researcher, I see this new world as a fantastically target-rich environment for things to study.

Your role is much more complicated, scary, and exciting. You have the privilege of reacting to and shaping the new environment for these emerging workers.

As the parent of four of these neo-workforce participants, I would only ask you to be brilliant at what you do.

Thank you.

That’s how I feel about Generation M. Privileged at having the opportunity to react and shape the new environment for them. Enjoying the complexity. Slightly scared. Excited.

So thank you, Lee Rainie, whoever you may be. [BTW for the first time in many weeks, I could not use Wikipedia to link to a person’s name, or for that matter to Pew Internet. All I could do was link to an organisation stub for the parent, Pew Research. ]

For those who aren’t familiar with it, the presentation starts with an analogous reference to Elizabeth Eisenstein’s The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe and is itself worth a look.

Rainie also provides us with “ten new communications and media realities”, fodder for the list-hungry:

  • Reality 1 is that we’re surrounded by media and communications tools and the bit-flow around us is as available as the air we breathe.
  • Reality 2 is that these tools are no longer-place-bound. Not only does this untether Americans from their phones, it also means they can carry a lot of computing power in their pockets.
  • Reality 3 is that use of the internet has become the norm in America and broadband connections are the norm amongst internet users.
  • Reality 4 is that multi-tasking is a way of like and we live ion a state of “continuous partial attention.”
  • Reality 5 is that the rise of these two-way technologies has enabled Americans to become their own publishers, movie makers, artists, song creators, and story tellers.
  • Reality 6 is that the online environment is becoming a privileged information and communications space — and that changes expectations and behaviour in the user population. As people gain experience online — and as the online workld itself becomes ever-more-useful — people become more serious in the things they do online.
  • Reality 7 is that the mass market is fragmenting and heavy internet users are different kinds of media consumers — and communicators — from lighter users and non-users.
  • Reality 8 is that power, influence, and relations between media producers and consumers change in a “prosumer” world.
  • Reality 9 is that people’s social networks matter more and more in the “long Tail” world and where personal tagging and taxonomies are commonplace.
  • Reality 10 is that everything will change even more dramatically in the years to come as advances continue in computing, communications infrastructure, and storage capacity.

Yes I know we all have read the book, seen the film, bought the T-shirt. But remember that hard data about social software and Generation M is hard to come by, and we should look out for people with the time, the inclination and the funding to get this data. So we need the Pews of this world.

The more we understand about Generation M, the more we can be brilliant in our preparations. Most of them wouldn’t know a Local Loop or a Last Mile if it hit them in the face. And, with a little bit of luck, it shouldn’t matter. That’s what we have to do. Make sure their path is not polluted.

3 thoughts on “Four Pillars: More on Preparing for Generation M”

  1. JP – I’ve just referenced this excellent post of yours on my blog, ‘Adventure of Strategy’ ( with a post called ‘Preparing for Generation M.’ No trackback seemed to register so I’m letting you know ‘manually.’ Rob.

  2. I was very interested in your comments about supporting Generation M when I attended the ‘Enterprise User Perspectives’ workshop at Supernova.

    Though engaging Generation M does undoubtedly pose a challenge (as a teacher who is nudging 60, my mother is in regular SMS and IM contact with many of her teenage students – much easier for the moutain to go to Mohamed!) I think the pre-cursor to them is already doing something to forge a path ahead. I am well aware that you are a convert but I think the challenge here is asking business to recognise that, in order to get the most from the humans who work for them, they need to create environs and make accessible tools that will support the free and effective exchange of information. The technology is developing but if even early 20s philosophy students (my little sister and her buddies) consider a PC without an internet connection to be a doorstop how are the current 16-year-olds going to react to being given a fresh notepad and pen on their first day at work?

    What can we do to help? I wonder if the teaching community can offer any insights or any of that hard data you mentioned?

Let me know what you think

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