Dr Katie Davis, left, co-authored The App Generation.
Dr Katie Davis, left, co-authored The App Generation.

A survey of 2,000 secondary school students is part of a new book called The App Generation.

The book was co-authored by Dr Katie Davis, who is an assistant professor at the Information School at the University of Washington.

It is a synthesis of several research projects she completed at Harvard Graduate School.

She said: “One of those projects was my dissertation study, which I did in Bermuda in 2010.”

In that, she did a survey of 2,000 secondary school students in Bermuda. From that, she did a series of in-depth interviews with a few students from each of the secondary schools.

Dr Davis said: “A lot of that insight went into the book as well as a number of other peer-reviewed publications.”

She said the book explores the app mentality through identity, intimacy and imagination.

Dr Davis said: “The app mentality... encapsulates what we’re seeing in these three areas. It’s the idea that all the answers to our questions are, or should be, provided by the appropriate app or by the appropriate technology.

“It’s an algorithmic-way of thinking. I have a question, so I immediately reach for my phone for the answer instead of first looking inside myself.”

One way that shows up across generations is that for both herself and co-author Howard Gardner, “we have distinct memories of being lost and having to figure out for where we are, on our own”.

Dr Davis said her younger sister has never had to worry about it “because she has an app on her phone to tell her exactly where to go.

“People are looking to technology instead of looking inside of yourself. There is a kind of self-reliance in getting lost and trying to get out of it, where that is not needed in today’s technology-rich, app-enabled landscape.”

She said there is both good and bad in that. In the area of intimacy, teens are having more interactions with their parents via technology.

“In Western society, part of it is developing an autonomous self apart from your parents. In our research, and other research, there is some suggestion that may be more difficult to achieve  today.”

As an example, she said in camps, they quite often take the kids’ cellphones for the week, but now parents are giving the campers two mobiles — “one to give to the camp personnel and one to hide away so the parents can remain in constant contact with their kids”.

She said another study showed college students were in contact with their parents an average of 13 times a week. 

“Because of technology they don’t have to be separated from their parents.” 

*Part two will run next Wednesday.