Tracking Mobile Information Habits

In today’s hypermedia landscape, youth and young adults are increasingly using social media platforms, online aggregators and mobile applications for all daily information use. A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that ‘Eight- to eighteen- year-olds in the US spend more time with media than in any other activity besides (maybe) sleeping—an average of more than 7½ hours a day, 7 days a week.’ The Pew Center’s annual State of the Media report (2012) found information consumption habits in the US migrating significantly towards digital platforms across all age ranges. Jad Melki, Professor of Media Studies at the American University of Beirut (2011), found that the use of internet and mobile technologies have exponentially grown throughout the Middle East in secondary and higher education.

The Tethered Generation in this sense follows an intimacy described by Scholar Sherry Terkle (2008):

“Our new intimacy with machines compels us to speak of a new state of the self, itself… A new place for the situation of a tethered self.”

One of the largest impacts of mobile technologies today is in the integration of various information types (news, entertainment, personal communication) and mediums (television, radio, print) into aggregated spaces. Search engines and social networks have replaced specific channels, shows, and even web sites as the predominant places youth go for information. The result is that students not only have access to seemingly endless amounts of information, but also personalize their content and reorganize it in a fashion that best allows them to make sense of a topic, and to share it with peers (Lessig 2010).

This section details the data analysis of the 24-hour tracking assignment completed by 793 students representing 56 nationalities from 8 universities on 4 continents.

The data is broken into a Pre-Survey, that explored self-reported mobile information habits of the sample, and the data analysis of the 24-hour tracking exercise.