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Contemporary Youth and the Postmodern Adventure - page 2 / 16





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where media culture, computers, genetic engineering, and other emerging technologies are dramatically transforming all aspects of life (see Best and Kellner, 2001). It is a world where multimedia technologies are changing the very nature of work, education, and the textures of everyday life, but also where previous boundaries are imploding, global capital is restructuring and entering an era of crisis, war, and terrorism, while uncertainty, ambiguity, and pessimism become dominant moods.

Consequently, the youth of the new millennium are the first generation to live the themes of postmodern theory.2 Entropy, chaos, indeterminacy, contingency, simulation, and hyperreality are not just concepts they might encounter in a seminar, but forces that constitute the very texture of their experience, as they deal with corporate downsizing and the disappearance of good jobs, economic recession, information and media overload, the demands of a high-tech computer society, crime and violence, identity crises, terrorism, war, and an increasingly unpredictable future. For youth, the postmodern adventure is a wild and dangerous ride, a rapid rollercoaster of thrills and spills plunging into the unknown.

From Boomers to Busters

"Perhaps the cruelest joke played on our generation is the general belief that if you went to college, you'll get a job and be upwardly mobile." Steven Gibb

The prospects for youth have always been problematic, dependent on class, gender, race, nationality, and the concrete socio-historical environment of the day. "Youth" itself is a social construct that takes on different connotations at different periods in history. What is striking about the contemporary situation of youth is the totalizing and derogatory terms used to describe them. Youth have been tagged with terms such as the "Postponed Generation," the "13th Generation," the "New Lost Generation," "The Nowhere Generation," or most frequently, "Generation X," as well as "the scapegoat generation," “GenNet,” “GenNext, and other catch phrases.3 These terms have mainly been applied to the 80 million Americans born between the 1960s and 1980s who follow the "boomer" generation that emerged in post-World War Two affluence and who were the beneficiaries of an unprecedented economic expansion. Howe and Strauss (1993) see all of these young people as one cohesive group, yet they nevertheless draw distinctions between the older "Atari Wave," born in the 1960s and raised on the first video games such as PacMan and Space Invaders, the "Nintendo Wave" who played the more advanced Super Mario II and Tetris games, and the "Millennial Generation" born in the 1980s who entered the computer world. While these distinctions serve to distinguish between younger kids and those who are now thirty-somethings and ascending, video games are obviously a poor marker of distinction and do not adequately delineate important gender, race, sexual preference, and class differences among contemporary youth. Moreover, innovative computer, CD-ROM, and video technologies render video games a decreasingly central aspect of youth culture, hence the term “GenNet” has become a popular phrase to define the current generation. This task of defining


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