Journaling Media Consumption – Content, Source, Choice

In tracking my media usage for the week, I gained something that I imagine most people gain when engaging in this exercise: anxiety. Anxiety and paranoia that I have stopped paying attention to what media I was being exposed to / exposing myself to, that there were aspects of my media consumption that I was significantly less aware of, or that I was generally unconscious of the majority of my consumption on a daily basis. In other words, it worked.

My strategy for designing my media journal was not simply to find out how often I was accessing media, but to develop an ontology for engaging with media and test it to see what properties of media access were the most revelatory about my habits. What follows is a breakout by each of those properties, some of which are revelatory, and some of which might benefit from collecting over a longer timeline.

First, I categorized my media consumption by what it was about. One thing about recording this was that it drew attention to how frequently I was consuming more than one form of media at the same time. Obviously the largest category, music, was mostly consumed while also engaging with a number of the others. It is no surprise to me that work and social are among the biggest categories, but it was surprising just how large of a percentage was dedicated to art (and Instagram, which I struggled to categorize given that it is a platform with multiple types of content; I went with “social;art”, since my primary use for it is to follow artists and designers).

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One of the aspects of the journaling I was most interested in was how much media consumption was a choice vs. forced on me by context and environment. Admittedly, I am likely to have dramatically underreported the media I was involuntarily exposed to. Reflecting on walking through the city, it already occurs to me that e.g. I stood in front of a number of advertisements on the back wall of the subway platform that I was subconsciously aware of, but which didn’t rise to the level of conscious consumption. That said, I do thing what I realized from this process is that, for the media I am at least partially engaged with, most of it is quite purposeful. Non-discretionary is listed, as some media, such as presentations, or readings for classwork were voluntary, but not optional/assigned by others. (This chart is based on number of engagements, not amount of time spent on each piece of media. If this were based on time, it would look dramatically different, skewing toward nondiscrentionary.)

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Media type gives a bit more resolution in terms of what I was consuming. What was surprising for me was the variety. If I was to imagine the various types of media I was engaging with on a daily basis, I would have guessed perhaps only 3-4, but it appears there is still diversity in the ways I consume media. Again, advertisements are not broken out here, which might have been interesting. A stand-out is the “platform” category, which represents types such as Twitter, Instagram, Instant Messaging platforms, etc. bringing into focus the amount of times I engage with media in an ecosystem where I am likely to be exposed to many other types of content.

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I tracked what channels the media I consumed came to me from. No surprise that I’m the top culprit here in terms of choosing to expose myself to media. Community, friends, and classes are about on equal footing, but on a long enough timeline, I’d be curious to see how this actually played out. My suspicion is that class would spike and the influence of my friends or online communities would stay mostly the same. (I recently purposefully locked myself out of Facebook and handed the keys to a trusted friend, so it was an interesting time for me to journal. I shudder to think what these charts would look like if my usual habits of being tempted into admittedly a lot of good, yet likely superfluous content.)

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The amount of social media content here is alarming, even without Facebook. I think that if I spent more time counting the various exposures during class time (when I appropriately wasn’t diverting my attention to log every item) this would balance out with social, or at least that’s what I’m going to tell myself…

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In terms of what devices this media is experienced through, I would have expected that “laptop” would have dominated my phone accesses much more. Another comparison I’m going to continue to keep my eye on. Again, this is not based on time spent on engaging with the media, so this chart would likely skew toward “laptop” given the amount of times I use it to read long-form items, which I can’t stomach via my phone. At the same time, if I added up every one of the micro-engagements I had on my phone, it’s possible┬áthe gap would be smaller than I’m imagining.

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In general, I think the voluntary/involuntary comparison and source of media analyses were the most educational in understanding my own habits of consumption. No doubt, even tracking a handful of metrics for a short time period heightened my conscious awareness of the beginning of an interaction with a given form of media dramatically.