In fall 2011, I released A Tethered World, a study that explores the mobile habits and dispositions of university students from around the world.
Here are some details on the study. You can find the full study at: A Tethered World
This past Spring, 793 students from 8 Universities from around the world participated in a 24-hour mobile information tracking exploration and reflection to answer the question:How have mobile technologies changed the information habits of a digital generation?
The Result is A Tethered World: A Study that explores the mobile information habits of emerging citizens around the world. Students spanning 52 nationalities on 4 continents participated in a global study that tracked their mobile habits over a 24-hour period, collecting survey data and 500 word reflections.
A Tethered World was designed to explore the information habits and dispositions of university students’ mobile phone use (consuming, sharing, reading, publishing, expressing, etc.) Three general research questions guided the study:
- Q1. How have mobile technologies influenced the information habits of university students around the world?
- Q2. What similarities and differences exist in university students’ use of mobile technologies for information purposes?
- Q3. How do university students conceive of mobile technologies role in their daily lives?
Here are five of the top conclusions of the study:
1. Facebook and Twitter not only are the dominant presence in the lives of students across the globe, they are having a homogenizing effect on how students live around the world. Whether in Bournemouth, Beirut or Boston, students reported that Facebook, Twitter and other social networks were the way they hear from and communicate to their friends and the world. “Twitter has become the new CNN,” as one student said. And the study suggests that for students, mobile phones are the new remote controls.
2. Mobile phones are used to share and comment on other people’s social spaces — and information and news of all kinds is especially valued when it has a great “gee whiz” factor that makes young adults want to pass it on. Said one student: “I don’t usually share articles, just some great music news, or a YouTube video that I think is funny or is a music video.”
3. This is not Gen-X or Gen-Y: this is the ‘Tethered Generation.’ Around the world, mobile phones are integral to students’ identity. Students self-reported that they were “addicted,” claiming it is literally “impossible” to go a day without a phone. The tracking data reinforced students’ heavy use across the world. As one student reported: “I check my phone literally every 2 or 3 minutes for updates on text messages, Twitter, or even Facebook.” Said another: “The mobile phone has become a part of us: our best friend who will save all our secrets, pleasures and sorrows.”
4. Students use mobile phones to network with others — and being a part of that network is more real than the real world. For students, phones don’t just facilitate conversations, they connect them to others in ways that are not only satisfying, but increasingly paramount. Observed one student: “One thing that seems kind of funny to me is one experience that I had last week, we had an earthquake, a big one, and a lot of people instead of being alert and try to save themselves, they just started tweeting about what was going on. They were so attached to their social networks that they cared more about letting people know what was happening instead of evacuating the building.
5. On mobile phones, apps are like cable TV. While they appreciate the thousands of options, students really only use a few apps. While a majority of the students in the study had 16 or more apps on their phones, they reported they only used 3 or 4 apps regularly. Said one student: “The three Apps that I use the most [are] Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I love being able to see what my friends are up to and look at their pictures. I also enjoy the diverse combination of news articles, humor, and lifestyle pieces that these various platforms provide.”
“I felt that I had a better relationship with my phone, than with people around me. I felt like I was taking better care of THAT relationship, than the one of the person in front of me.” STUDENT PARTICIPANT