Media Consumption as a Grad Student

“Ha, I have to write about my media consumption for last week? Big Deal, I know what I spend my time on.” My impression went roughly in this line when I found out that I had to embark on this crazy self-monitoring endeavor. Little did I know that self-monitoring in this digital age can be strangely cathartic.

My journey started with installing RescueTime in my borrowed MacBook Pro. First warning sign came to me when RescueTime asked me, rather incredulously, if I was in my senses when I marked News and Opinion category as productive. “Really? Most people mark it as distracting” was the website’s wisdom. But what would an impersonal website know about our priorities, we know better right? But the power of perceived monitoring became apparent when I started navigating through my digital life.

Here are some of the insights I got from my three-day digital surveillance: I may have been devouring media, both traditional and social, in my earlier life as a journalist, but as a grad student for last two years, my media consumption went downhill and I may have retracted into my metaphorical cave filled with library books and articles. A.T. Mahan, Halford Mackinder, and other luminaries took the place of Media glitterati in my life. Consequently, the most amount of time I spend either online or offline is devoted to these readings. But self-monitoring proved that this could be a far cry from the truth. I do spend a fair amount of resources (both data and battery power) on both ‘productive activities like checking news sites and ‘distracting’ activities like listening to online music (we certainly have to be current with the Grammys right?) or checking TweetDeck ever-so-often.

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It was revealing to me that when time became a precious commodity, Facebook quickly went into the back-burner but twitter remained in the focus. Another information I found about my browsing habits is that I tend to hop from one website to another. I start off with an interesting tweet or article and start reading all the related stories or the hyperlinks present in the stories. Hyperlinks can be distracting, and addictive as well…

While it was interesting to see that I was following a pattern and unknowingly was being led from one article to another, the most interesting aspect I found is the time slots that I am online.

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I tend to squeeze my Digital time between the classes and other sacred Grad School rituals, like realtime socialization. While this pattern is most visible during the weekdays, I do operate on identifiable time slots during the weekends as well.

Before the start of monitoring I was of the impression that I was doing a lot of work and that as a grad student, I was under enough workload. It was only after I started monitoring my own activity that I realized there is always enough time, we just need to look deeper into our own time consumption.

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Can we use Peer-to-Peer transfer technologies to upload videos from mobiles?

It was during an impromptu assignment back in India few years ago that I first found this problem. I could shoot a video while covering an event, but sending it down to my editor using mobile data connection proved tough. My chance of being a pioneer in my bureau and earning some ‘brownie’ points with my editor were soundly dashed. To cover-up my frustration, I blamed poor data connectivity and was under the impression that it was a problem we face only in India. I was proved wrong when I came to the US in 2014. Anyone with a T-Mobile connection in Medford Campus of Tufts University would attest to the fact that ‘no signal’ is not a beast that troubles souls selectively.

Pun apart, my understanding about the limitation that I was facing in uploading videos through data connectivity of a mobile was again challenged when I took a video of my three-minute pitch and tried to upload the file on to my Box Folder, I could not send a 100 MB file through my mail. This time I was on Harvard Wi-Fi and viola, my mobile crashed again and again. I was forced to concede defeat and transfer the files onto my computer and well, rest is ‘going to be’ history.

These experiences taught me something interesting, for a person to shoot a video and upload it onto a website without using any of the apps being provided by the likes of YouTube or Facebook, could face a serious problem as both the strength of data connectivity and the ability of a handset to handle large file transfers can decide whether a data transfer can be made successfully in the first place.

With the definition of journalism changing fast and live streaming and quick video uploads becoming a norm in journalism, the ability of a journalist to not just shoot a video but also to upload it becomes a key prerequisite in their trade. But this ability can be severely compromised if he or she is working in a place with spotty data or Wi-Fi connectivity.

Is there a possible answer?

One of the issue we face in huge file transfers is that in the event of a disruption, the entire transfer fails. I think this could be addressed with the possibility of breaking down the file into manageable packets and transferring it them in sequence, my like peer-to-peer torrent transfer.

Peer-to-peer transfer technologies are also coming of age. For example Terranet is testing its Mesh technology to connect mobile devices without the necessity of having a data connection. If these incredible peer-to-peer transfer technologies are harnessed, I feel that we can create a process that can be used by journalists in creating and distributing multimedia files even from the remote places. While I could not find a product that does this function yet, I guess we can explore the possibilities of tackling this issue this semester.

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Nemmani Sreedhar

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Nemmani Sreedhar

Hello, I am Nemmani, friends also call me Sree. I am a second-year Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy student at The Fletcher School with specializations in International Security Studies, Human Security, Negotiations, Conflict Resolution, Gender Studies, and International Communications.

Before coming to the Fletcher School, I worked as a Journalist (Senior Reporter) in India’s noted newspaper, The Hindu, for three years, and before that I worked in Indian Air Force as a Photo Specialist for 15 years. I did my Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism from India’s premier J-School, Asian College of Journalism, with a specialization in New Media stream. I also have a Masters in Economics.

I love Martial Arts, Mountaineering, and other outdoorsy activities. Currently, I am also in the process of setting up a new media venture along with some of the best and most creative minds at the Fletcher School. Looking forward for an exciting semester in Ethan’s class.

You can find me on : Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, among others…

Nemmani (Sree)

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