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Don’t Curb Your Creativity: Author Illuminates Limits Of The App Generation

I begin and end my days with technology.

My iPhone alarm goes off, I check the news and email, I stream the radio, I surf the web by day, and I fall asleep to the sound of my white noise app.

Are people like me just modern, or are we app-dependent?Katie Davis is an assistant professor at the University of Washington Information School and co-author of a new book, “The App Generation.”

Davis defines app-dependence as “when someone uses apps – and really any sort of new digital technology – as a starting point, a middle point and an end point; their go-to source for any answer, any source of social connection, even for self-expression.”

Davis is not a Luddite. She uses GPS to get places, sometimes. But she’s troubled by the way people, especially young people, express and limit themselves.

“If you’re using an app – a creativity app, maybe a painting app or a music app – to compose a song or to paint a picture, it’s important to realize that your range of what you can do is going to be constrained by what the app developer has programmed into that app,” Davis said. “So, your color palette is going to be constrained by the colors that the app developer has chosen to put in there.”

Last month, KUOW asked you (ironically, on our Facebook page) to tell us how you use apps.

Shannon:Google for those mommy-brain moments; ZipList for my husband and me to synchronize the shopping list; Mosaic for making quick, beautiful little albums for friends and vacations; Amazon Prime for all the things I don’t want to run around looking for; and timehop, which shows me posts I’ve made one-, two-, three-plus years ago, today. Having a three-year-old daughter, it’s a great way to re-visit those forgotten moments.”

Davis says timehop is a cool idea, but when she thinks about it longer she gets nervous. “That means that my memory and my sense of myself are going to be shaped by this particular technology. And so, my memory is kind of out-sourced to this app.”

Michael posted about an app he uses to compare his ride to every other user who’s taken the same route.

Michael: “Cyclists will understand the urgent need to map our rides, or it’s like they didn’t happen. Every rider I know gets hooked at some point. I even get disappointed when I forget to record it. I can’t figure out if the beauty and thrill of riding fades when I realize I forgot, or increases when I reflect on the ride in the absence of stats.”

Davis can relate. She’s a runner, and six months ago she downloaded a running app. Now, if she ever forgets to turn it on when she’s running, she feels like the run never happened.

“It feeds into our need to document and remember, and also to feel that we’re making progress and advancing and getting better in some way. Having those cold, hard stats really helps you. But sometimes I think, why isn’t enough for me to just go out for a run?”

Davis will read from “The App Generation” on April 23 at Seattle’s Town Hall.

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