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Who and What Comes After the Millennials?

October 15, 2007

Who and What Comes After the Millennials?
College & Research Division Luncheon
Lee Rainie, Project Director, Pew Internet & American Life Project

Millennials = digital natives, born in 1989 and later. Haven’t had to learn to use technology, have always used it. Reviewed some important dates. Blogs came into their own in 1997, but really came into their own after 9/11 in 2001, and again in 2003 (with Howard Dean’s presidential campaign using blogspace). Folksonomies/tagging: many users, one item; one user, many items; many users, many items. Twitter – short form blogging; people can sub to your Twitter. (Technology staff at Penn State uses it!)

Lee showed us a video on YouTube on the power of the Web, by Prof. Mike Wesch at Kansas State University.
Five hallmarks of new digital ecosystem
1. Home media gadgets are ubiquitous
2. The Internet is the computer — people are using online applications. Broadband users have grown in numbers; they use the Internet different than dial-up users.
3. New gadgets allow people to enjoy media, gather info, and carry on communication anywhere. Wirelessness is its own adventure. 88% of college students have cell phones; 81% of college students own digital cameras. Think of it as a way of communicating with their friends.
4. Ordinary citizens have a chance to be publishers, movie makers, artists, song creators, and story tellers. Over half of online teens have a social network site, but more and more are putting up some privacy restrictions. Four out of 10 teens have created something online. Many teens are ‘tech support’ for their families. 33% of college students keep blogs as an online diary, for their friends. Much higher content creation rates for young people than for older folks.

But here’s the good news — the things that engaged students in past still engage them. They are not techno-snobs; they are actually quite compliant and willing to work with you in whatever way you want. You don’t have to move into their ecology totally.

Time spent with media, among 8-18 year-olds; almost 8.5 hours a day engaging in some form of media (including newspapers, magazines, and books) but packed into about 6.5 hours a day. How do they do that? Multitasking! Students live in a state of “continuous partial attention” which adds to their stress and distracts them from completing tasks well. (Linda Stone) Counterargument — you’re more efficient, using new info.

Millennials‘ relationship to information changes. Volume: long tail grows. Velocity — smart mobs shine. Valence — “Daily Me/Us” gets made. Kids are adept at screening out content that is not meaningful to them.

Millennials‘ learning experiences change. Boundary between education and entertainment breaks down. Experiential learning increases. Collaboration grows. Amateur experts arise. Just-in-time research becomes common. Cut-and-paste papers are more likely.

Students’ social world changes. Human ties are being built around looser, rather than denser network groupings. People have partial membership in multiple networks and rely less on permanent memberships in settled groups.

5. Everything will change even more in the future.
J-curve laws:
Computing power doubles every 18 months – Moore’s law
Storage power doubles ever 12 months
Communications power doubles every 2-3 years – Gilder’s law (Spectrum power)

New Internet is being built to accommodate new uses. Security online wasn’t an issue with original Net. New Web and new applications — voice recognition, touch (haptic) activities and new displays, search will continue to improve (collective intelligence is being used). Semantic web — Tim Berners-Lee’s new passion.

Where does this leave us? We’re in a metaphorical cloud or fog of data.
What’s coming after Millennials?

Metaverse Project – when so many people are online, there will be 4 hallmarks:
1) virtual worlds will be much more common
2) mirror worlds – e.g. Google Earth
3) Augmented reality – e.g. Smart door knob, more stuff will have more data
4) Life-logging – Nike and iPod link

Q & A
Net Neutrality issue of new Internet? Because Internet Pew is nonpartisan, they don’t actually have a position on this, but they are surveying the designers of the new Internet. Are asking them if Internet will remain as open as it is know. Suspects the community will be divided.

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