The quantified self movement, for instance, optimistically urges citizens of the Global North to mobilize the stream of data constantly available to them through various smart devices to help people not only manage but also “optimize” their lives. But optimize for what? The prevalence of such devices, particularly among the young, has prompted Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner and colleague Katie Davis to identify the App Generation, calling many young people today “app-dependent.” They suggest several broad potential pitfalls of constant data checking through multiple computer and mobile applications: “they may foreclose a sense of identity, encourage superficial relations with others, and stunt creative imagination.” We certainly hear in such concerns the frantic rhetoric of an older generation wondering what the so-called “digital natives” are really up to; and, to be sure, Gardner and Davis suggest several “good” uses of apps to prompt more self-reflection, connection, and creativity.



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Black and white photograph of two young women text messaging on their smartphones.

Two women text messaging, (c) Paul Martin Lester, CC BY 3.0