One of the tenets of the information profession is to help individuals find, evaluate, and use information. Further, it is argued that to be successful in today’s society, individuals need the skills to explore, analyze, and interpret the volumes of available information presented to them. Yet, an interesting topic to reflect upon is “How much information does the average American actually consume in a single day?”
Before determining the amount of information consumption, information needs to be defined. So, what is information? Many definitions of information exist, but for the purpose of this discussion regarding understanding the consumption of information, information will be defined as “data that is delivered for use by a person”. Given that particular definition of information, Roger E. Bohn and James E. Short determined that an average individual consumes on average almost 12 hours of information per day! To facilitate understanding, this consumption figure can be transformed into approximately 100,000 words of information for the average person on an average day or, using the familiar digital media technical measures, about 34 gigabytes of information for the average person on an average day.
Information that is used by individuals can be acquired from many sources. Yet, for the purposes of this reported study, information that was delivered to individuals were classified into the categories of computer, movies, music, phone, print media, radio, and television. Interestingly, despite the media portrayal of the computer as the ubiquitous information acquisition device, more than three-quarters of information acquisition by individuals was using traditional (or non-computer) sources.
Acquiring information has begun shifting from a passive activity to an interactive, social activity. If you feel that you have become overwhelmed or deluged with information, you are probably correct. An individual’s information consumption has risen from approximately 7.4 hours per day in 1960 to over 11.8 hours per day in 2008. That is an increase of over 59%. Further, the way individuals read has also evolved. In 1960, 26% of the words an individual consumed were from conventional print format material such as books, magazines, and newspapers; yet by 2008, the words an individual consumed from these sources actually decreased to 9%. Yet, reading as a form of information consumption has actually increased. New and other delivery tools available for reading have been introduced.
One of the key changes during this time period was the use of and availability of computers in homes and the availability of the internet. It has been estimated that as of December 31, 2011, the global internet usage penetration was approximately 32.7% of the world’s population or about 2.27 billion internet users. Remember, in 1980, email did not exist for households. However, today many individuals use email as well as other social applications such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter to communicate, collaborate, and share information.
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Information via the Internet
Given the dramatic growth and use of the internet, another question becomes, “How much does the internet contribute to our information consumption?” Answering that question depends on what type of information is being consumed on the internet. Information consumption on the internet can be further classified into three unique and mutually exclusive purposes. Those purposes are two-way communication, entertainment, and research. For two-way communications, the internet is very important. The internet provides individuals with various tools such as email, social networking, and instant messaging. The study estimated that the average individual spent, on average, 1.6 hours per day in two-way communications. It was estimated that 57% of this time or about 55 minutes was spent communicating on the internet. For research, the internet provides access to tremendous amounts of information stores. The study estimated that the average individual spent, on average, 3.7 hours on research and understanding current events.
The latest generation has increased their reading! Reading is the preferred way to receive words on the internet and, as such, require the current generation to read more. Interestingly, as the media portrays parents admonishing children from watching too much television, the fact is that the largest group of television watchers is the demographic group of 60-65 year old individuals who consume more than 7 hours of television watching per day!
- Global Information Industry Center - http://giic.ucsd.edu/index.php
- How Much Information? 2009 Report on American Consumers - http://hmi.ucsd.edu/howmuchinfo_research_report_consum.php
- Miniwatts Marketing Group. Internet usage statistics - http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm (Accessed on May 8, 2012).
- Statistics for various age groups are from The Council for Research Excellence, Video Consumer Mapping Study: Appendix - Additional Findings & Presentation Materials, June 2009.
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