Primavera’s Media Diary

 

 

For a more detailed overview of my media consumption, click here !media-consume

After trying to figure out which tool I could use to track my media consumption, I immediately encountered a problem: I have 3 different computers that I use regularly depending on my location (my old computer which always stays home, my new computer which resides at the Berkman center, and my netbook which always follows me along), 2 phones which I often use to check my emails or skype, and I sometimes rely on analog media, just as books. I could therefore not figure out a single application that would collect data about my media consumption simultaneously on all devices.. so I decided to keep track of it myself. Here is the spreadsheet that came out of it.
In addition to measuring my media consumption, my curiosity brought me to also collect the main topics of consumption. I tried to classify every piece of information that I gathered from media into broad categories, so as to be able to subsequently assess the correlation existing between the media I consume and the type of content or information I get exposed to.
After fiddling with various tools for datavisualisation, I ended up picking up d3.js – a very powerful tool for creativing beautiful data visualisations in (almost) no time – at least once you’ve figured out how to use it.. The current visualisations are not that exciting, of course, but that’s all I managed to get done for this first attempt at learning the tool.
The result was quite surprising as I realised that my media consumption during the week was limited to a very small number of very specific topics, which are not in fact at all representative of how I perceived my interested to be:

  • Art was the great winner, with over 26 hours over the whole week. Of course, this was greatly related to the fact that I spent most of my week working with colleagues on our Burning Man proposal whose deadline is next week, so a large part of my “Conversations” this week were related to “Art”.
  • Programming was (surprisingly) the second, with over 10 hours of exposure. This is, in reality, not so surprising, considering that I was actually learning how to use d3 for this very assignment, so I had to spend many hours browsing the web in order to figure out how to achieve my goals.
  • Science-Fiction was third, also over 10 hours of exposure. I did not expect it at all, since I’m actually not a Science fiction freak, but then again I am currently reading a science fiction book and I’ve been watching various Sci-Fi movies that week, so it probably makes sense.
  • The rest basically amounts to my research topics: surveillance, antitrust, bitcoin, copyright, privacy and mesh networking, which when summed together amount to over 40 hours of exposure during the whole week. A result that did not surprise me at all.

The other interesting result of this analysis was derived the relative proportion of media I have been consuming over the week. Web is naturally the number one (with over 36 hours of consumption), which is not surprising since most of the information I seek comes from the web – although I did in fact expect my weekly exposure to the Web to be even higher than 36 hours. But what was highly surprising to me was to realize that the “Web” medium was so closely followed by “Conversation” (with over 33 hours of exposure). Of course, one might argue that “conversation” is not a medium in itself.. yet, as I compiled the spreadsheet, I carefully marked down only these conversation that were actually exposing me to new information, or that involved some kind of collaborative information construction.
This made me reflect upon the actual definition of “media”. I personally never really thought about what is or is not a medium, in fact, I consider myself to be extremely ignorant as regards media. So this is probably not the proper definition of “media”, but according to my personal view, “media” is whatever convey information or allow someone to communicate – which is why I decided to include “conversations” whithin the media category.
Overall, I think this was an extremely interesting exercise, which allowed me to become more aware, and to pay more attention to my media consumption. While I think the weekly “topics” were slightly biased or contaminated by circumstancial factors, I was happy to discover that “conversations” play such an important role in my media consumption. Since I arrived in Boston 3 months ago, I have found myself complaining about how difficult it is to get any work done in such a mentally stimulating environment such as the Berkman Center and the MIT Medialab. Now, I can finally justify it on being one of my main sources of information ;).
I also really enjoyed the process of figuring out how to transform a basic spreadsheet into something meaningful and visually enticing – which allowed me to discover the potential of d3 as a datavisualisaton tool, and to come back to my somewhat rusty programming skills.

 

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