A colleague of mine, Phillip Savage, supervised an interesting student research project into the attitudes of McMaster youth towards broadcast and youth media. A group of upper-class students in his Communication Studies courses surveyed students in a first-year class and prepared a report titled, The McMaster Youth Media Study (PDF). What is impressive is that one of the students, Christina Oreskovich, presented this at the “CBC New Media Panel” to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage (today, May 10th, 2007.)
Here is their “composite sketch of the typical student” which nicely captures the results:
She is 18 years old in her first year of a liberal arts program, her parents were immigrants and she speaks English and another home language (mostly with her grandparents now). She has a cell phone with a built-in camera and is toying with the idea of perhaps in the summer upgrading to a phone with a built in MP3 player. She got a laptop computer when she started at Mac in the fall and has broadband access at home, and in certain locations on campus. She downloads music for free from the Internet form a range of sites and although she has an iPod she rarely pays for iTunes. She regularly downloads complete TV programs off the web to watch on the laptop but rarely whole movies. Almost every day she catches one or two items from YouTube (usually sent as attachments to electronic messages from friends). She occasionally uses MySpace for social networking. On a daily basis she keeps up to date with over 100 friends from school, home and work on Facebook. Only occasionally does she look at blogs; and she doesn‚Äôt keep one herself ‚Äì though some of her friends do.
She still watches TV ‚Äì usually at least once a day. Her favourite channel is City-TV but she also catches CTV, CBC-TV and CH. She regularly listens to radio (very rarely CBC Radio), although she figures she gets most of her music from other sources. She‚Äôs heard of people getting satellite radio but since she doesn‚Äôt have a car she very rarely experiences ‚Äì it‚Äôs more something her Dad is into. She will read magazines quite regularly, at least once or twice a week.
She doesn‚Äôt feel she has the time or interest to follow most news closely, yet. When she does she is as likely to use traditional mass media (TV, newspaper or radio) as internet sources. She prefers TV, radio nd newspapers for national and international news, and the internet for arts and entertainment stories.
She feels strongly that the Internet allows her to both keep in touch with a wide range of friends, but worries a bit that maybe she is spending less face to face time with close friends and family. She is also a bit concerned about whether time on the internet is making her a little less productive in her school work, although she thinks that it really helps her understand quickly about what‚Äôs going on in the world and exposes her to a wide range of points of view (more so than traditional mass media). She gets worried at time about her own privacy on the Internet, especially when she spends so much time on Facebook. She‚Äôs not really sure if she can find more Canadian information on the Internet versus traditional media. (pages 3 and 4)
I knew Facebook was popular, but didn’t expect it to be this popular. I’m guessing that it is becoming an “always on” utility for many students that aggregates, summarizes and nicely shows what’s happening to their friends. I suspect interfaces like Facebook Mobile will become more and more popular as iPhone type cell phones become affordable.