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How Generation Z college students in the Ferguson College of Agriculture perceive technology in their lives: A Q methodology study

Blackwell, Samantha Ashley
Generation Z is the generation everyone is talking about (Dimock, 2019). The oldest are entering the workforce, and the rest are in classrooms (Dimock, 2019). They are the most unique generation to date, and they have been shaped by numerous domestic and international tragedies (Katz, 2019). Their perception of privacy is different than previous generations because of these experiences (Parker, Graf, & Igielnik, 2019). However, little is known about them, specifically what they think about technology in their life.
Q methodology was chosen for this study for its ability to gain subjective insight about participants (Brown, 1980; Stephenson, 1953). The 40-statement Q set provided descriptions of how technology integrates in life, developed through naturalistic and hybrid methods. Twenty-five Ferguson College of Agriculture Generation Z students sorted the Q set with the condition of instruction, "What are your feelings about technology in your life?"
The 25 participant sorts were entered into the Q methodology software PCQ. The software correlated and factor analyzed the data. For a stronger solution, the researchers used judgmental rotation, resulting in a three-factor solution. To explain the factors the following labels were applied: Zennial, Silent Z, and Baby Zoomer.
The Zennial perspective strives for balance in their life between technology, social media and the real world. They are similar to the Millennial generation with their drive for success, and their healthy fear of abusing technology and social media. Additionally, the perspective values face-to-face relationships, and their parents some of their best friends. The Silent Z perspective sees technology as a tool. They are analytical and like to solve problems. However, they struggle losing the simplicity of previous generations, while appreciating new technologies. The Baby Zoomer perspective desires security, both physically, emotionally, and professional.
The most surprising finding from this study was some Generation Z individuals actually want to step away from their devices, more so than other generations assume. It is also apparent Generation Z has a different perspective of privacy than previous generations, and more research must be done to adapt privacy theories accordingly.