Technology, Communication, and the Millennial Generation
Mark Greenfield, University at Buffalo

Historical Context

Theories of the Networked World

  • The Death of Distance 2.0: Distance will no longer decide the cost of communicating electronically.
  • The World Is Flat: The world has been flattened creating a global, Web-enabled playing field that allows for multiple forms of collaboration.

The End of the Web As We Know It

  • The mobile Web.
  • Convergence.
  • Read/write Web (blogs, wikis).
  • End of the Web page paradigm.
  • Users will aggregate their own content.
  • Rich media.
  • The World Network.

Millennial Generation

Who Are They?

  • Born in 1980s and 90s.
  • Also called: Generation Y, The Net Generation.
  • Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation
    • Special: Vital to the nation and their parents sense of purpose.
    • Sheltered: Youth protection movement.
    • Confident: Their generation will change the world.
    • Team oriented: Tight peer bonds, shifted from I to we.
    • Conventional: Social standards make life easier.
    • Pressured: Trophy-kid pressure to excel.
    • Achieving: Best educated generation; teens have 5-year plans.


  • Ethnically-diverse.
  • Focused on grades and performance.
  • Respectful of norms and institutions.
  • Peer pressure toward positive behavior.
  • “Hypertext minds” that prefer to leap around.
  • Intuitive visual communicators.
  • Sharp break from the attitudes and behaviors of Generation X
    • Free agents > teamwork.
    • Apathy > political action.
    • Technology elevates the individual > technology elevates the community.

Millennials and Technology

  • Technology is the very core of their existence.
  • Carry an arsenal of devices.
  • The Web is the hub for activities.
  • Use the Web to create and share content.
  • Staying is connected.
  • Millennials are prolific communicators that reinforce social interaction
    • IM, text messaging.
    • Social networks (*facebook, friendster, orkut,
    • Smart mobs: Virtual grouping to perform a collective action.

Information Age Mindset

From Jason Frand

  • Computers aren’t technology.
  • The Internet is better than TV.
  • Reality is no longer real.
  • Doing rather than knowing.
  • Games (Nintendo) over logic, trial and error approach to learning.
  • Multi-tasking is a way of life.
  • Typing is preferred to handwriting.
  • Staying connected is essential.
  • There is zero tolerance for delays.
  • Consumer and creator are blurring.

Parents of Millennials

  • Helicopter parents: Always hovering, ultra-protective, unwilling to let go.
  • Parents will meddle and fuss if they don’t feel their special child is getting the best of everything.
  • The parent-child co-purchase the education.
  • Implications for FERPA: Make sure parents and students understand privacy.

Implications for Student Services

  • Students and parents are customers who actively compare programs and make choices.
  • A 24×7 customer service culture — always on, always connected, anytime, anywhere.
  • Cyber service and instant response.
  • Millennials accept authority and respect institutions, along with “zero tolerance” for institutional failure.

Is E-mail Losing Its Effectiveness

  • People are unwilling to share their e-mail address.
  • Spam filters intercept legitimate e-mail.
  • Millennials prefer IM.
  • Growth of alternate communications channels (RSS, blogs, text messaging).

Looking Ahead

  • Five-year-old daughter spends more time on the computer than television.
  • Has been asking for a cell phone since she was three years old.
  • Cell phones are being marketed for elementary school children, with buttons for mom, dad, and three others. Some have GPS.

Evaluating Communications Technology

  • Synchronous versus asynchronous.
  • Push versus pull.
  • Audience (one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-many).
  • Social aspects (formal versus informal, anonymity, privacy, spontaneity).
  • Cost.
  • Single response or dialog.
  • Searchability and archiving.

Instant Messaging

  • Gartner predicts IM usage will pass e-mail for corporate communications.
  • IM is more popular than e-mail for Millennials.
  • Millennials often carry on several conversations at once, and have several screen names.
  • System based on presence; people know when you’re on line.
  • Synchronous communications.

RSS: Real Simple Syndication

  • Engine driving the read/write Web.
  • The power of syndication.
  • User is in control.
  • A new way to surf the Web and deal with information overload.
  • Single feed versus multiple feeds: How detailed would the feeds be?
  • Frequency of content updates: What is the threshold for deleting a feed, as they would delete an inactive bookmark?


  • Business Week: Blogs will change your business.
  • Millennials prefer blogs over message boards.
  • Persistence: You need frequent posts.
  • Close the feedback loop: Activate comments, with approval stage.
  • Become a blogger.

Blogs in Higher Education

  • Student recruitment: Genuine, authentic look at the institution.
  • Blogs in the classroom.
  • Provide commentary and share expertise.
  • Build community.
  • Augment, replace listserv and electronic newsletters.
  • UB is using WordPress.

What Makes Podcasting Special

  • The power of RSS.
  • TiVO.
  • Proliferation of portable MP3 players.
  • Coursecasting.


  • Operate on a principle of collaborative trust.
  • Some estimate that wikis accelerate projects by 25 percent.

Looking Ahead

  • Five-year-old daughter spends more time on the computer than television.
  • Has been asking for a cell phone since she was three years old.
  • Cell phones are being marketed for elementary school children, with buttons for mom, dad, and three others. Some have GPS.

Concluding Thoughts

  • “Millennials Go to College:” Neil Howe and William Strauss.
  • “The Cluetrain Manifesto.”
  • “All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World.”
  • “Naked Conversations.”