by John Fraser, PhD
Dr. Fraser is the President & CEO of New Knowledge Organization Ltd, and a Fellow of the Media Impact Project at USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center. This is the second in his series of guest blogs on social media use among millennials.
In a previous blog, I described our national study of teen gamers, It’s not who I am, it’s what I do indicating that the study had broken new ground in that we found that most high school-age “gamers” were not all-consumed by their media tools, but set aside a reasonable amount of time and energy for digital experience as part of their identity development process.
What was more revelatory in that study was that teens were choosing their digital gaming to reinforce their ability to achieve success. Those who were more successful in science-based academic pursuits were more likely to use their digital gaming in isolation to advance their mastery, while those youth who were less academically successful with science were more likely to collaborate as a way to be successful.
Six years after we started those studies of high school students, we’re in the middle of a different study in collaboration with The Media Impact Project at the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center. Our research team has been working with PBS NewsHour to study how early career adults under age 35 are choosing to engage with media news consumption, with a specific focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). In that process, we’ve been debunking claims based on academic definitions of success where prior generations succeeded in school. These claims might simply reveal generational prejudice too.
The evidence we’ve collected on early career adults suggests that claims of social media destroying learning as we know it are unsupported. But it’s not only audiences that are changing. News makers’ practices are evolving too. Our results show that the news producers are caught in a complex battle between traditional best practices for broadcast reporting and acknowledging how young adults now consume and interact with media content.
Traditional journalism practice expects a reporter and producer to collaborate on finding information to tell a story. New journalism is now being produced as a public, transparent enterprise, with tentative information appearing online and then followed by reasoned synthesis and revision – all in the public eye. Newspapers have been slow to adopt the developing news-making approach, with newspapers of record like the Guardian being first to publish timelines of breaking news on their web portal. Meanwhile, outlets like Huffington Post have been allowing story revisions and tracking those changes to show the process. And quite recently, the likes of the New York Times and Washington Post are following suit. In the broadcast community, however, the opposite can be said to be true. Twenty-four-hour news stations such as MSNBC and Fox News use constant repetition to announce facts recapitulated by reporters, who often simply reinforce the station’s political biases. Today, new media and the wash of information has created a new learning ecology for news consumption.
Early career adults expect participatory dialogue surrounding their news media. They anticipate that information will be shared, negotiated, and challenged. It is the engagement in discourse that helps shape their understanding of validity in contemporary media consumption. Young career adults are not as cynical as reports about social media would suggest. Rather, they are more media savvy in what they choose to accept, have less willingness to listen to thoughtless recapitulation, and imagine themselves as editors sorting through the wash of content to remain abreast of topics. The dialogue itself is part of the spectator sport of media consumption today. Social media is an exercise in editing, filtering, and culling information. It appears that success with journalism in the coming era will focus on becoming a more responsive community to engage and find relevance. STEM stories, and all media, in the next wave of reporting will be more about existing as part of social media dialogues than simply broadcasting and moving on to the next spectacle.
Electronic Media Use, Reading, and Academic Distractibility in College Youth, Laura E. Levine, Bradley M. Waite, and Laura L. Bowman. CyberPsychology & Behavior. August 2007, 10(4): 560-566.https://doi.org/10.1089/cpb.2007.9990
The Associations Between Social-Media Use and Academic Performance Among Undergraduate Students in Biology. Jonna M. Leyrer-Jackson, Ashley K. Wilson, Journal of Biological Education. Mar 2017, Vol. 25: 1-10
Smartphones and Cognition: A Review of Research Exploring the Links between Mobile Technology Habits and Cognitive Functioning Henry H. Wilmer, Lauren E. Sherman, Jason M. Chein Frontiers in Psychology. Apr 2017, Vol. 8Crossref
Sleeping with Technology: Cognitive, affective, and technology usage predictors of sleep problems among college students, Larry Rosen, Louis M. Carrier, Aimee Miller, Jeffrey Rokkum, Abraham Ruiz, Sleep Health. Mar 2016, Vol. 2, No. 1: 49-56
“All Over the Place”: A case study of classroom multitasking and attentional performance. Dan Hassoun, New Media & Society. Nov 2015, Vol. 17, No. 10: 1680-1695
It’s Not Who I Am, it’s What I Do: Youth gamer identity and science understanding Asbell-Clarke, J., Fraser, J., Gupta, R. & Rowe, E. (2013), Transactions of the Digital Games Research Association, 1