What You Read (and How)

… is what you are?

This is an adaptation of an assignment in Columbia College Chicago’s Introduction to Journalism class:  In earlier versions of the assignment, students spent a week keeping track of their media consumption, then pooled their observations in class. Very cool.

When I taught the class, in fall of 2010, I took the project digital:

Because everybody used the same form– and because the form allowed students to enter a lot of different data points very efficiently–we were able to do some interesting cuts.

Like this:

I.  Time spent with different types of content
At first, we looked only at the number of times we choose a particular type of content, but that doesn’t tell the whole story:  A 2-minute Facebook check is not really the same thing as spending 3 hours playing a video game. Figured this way, movies/TV jumped ahead of social media, and video games jumped ahead of text.

II. Paid vs. Free, by content type
In the first set of runs, we had a single paid/free chart– which showed that about 80 percent of all content was accessed for free– but this gives an extra layer of information.  For this run, I broke content types down into three categories– social media, entertainment, and news/info– and asked how many times we accessed each for free, as opposed to buying (like a book) or subscribing (like cable TV)?

III.  Web vs. Storage (disk/paper) vs. Broadcast
How much news do we read on paper?  How much music (and video) is streaming?  I left out certain types of content that pretty much only live in one place or another– social media are all online, and books (at least for our group) are 100 percent in storage.  I left other “non-daily content” out of the picture too, because it’s such a broad category– everything from Wikipedia to Rolling Stone.  Here’s how the rest shakes out: 

4.  What technology are we using?
More laptops than anything else.  Next up:  Mobile phones.

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