How New Media Are Changing Me

As I wrote yesterday, the media environment is changing. As this happens, we who use new media are changing too. At least I’m changing. I’m aware of some of this change, but perhaps insidiously, some of it is subtle and less conscious. I’m guessing this is true for others as well.

For example, I frequently discover upon opening the front page of my physical newspaper (even the language is required to change) that I’ve already read much of it. It’s been published on the web, sometimes hours earlier. I use Pulse on the iPad and YourVersion on a laptop or iPad. I also go to the NY TimesChristian Science Monitor, BBC, Thomson Reuters, USA TodayWashington Post, The Guardian and Newsy. Often, I send an article I want to read later to Instapaper.

This is causing me to think I don’t need the paper edition, a huge change of attitude for me.  When we moved from the New York city region several years ago, the one heartbreaking reservation I had to accept was moving away from the print version of the New York Times. This was before it was widely available in print nationally.

When I stop my print subscription it will be a big, emotional step, but I can sense it’s coming. And it’s a bit disorienting.

Another significant behavioral change is the way I start the day. In one of those insidious changes, I recently realized I review social media first by reading it on Flipboard on an iPad or TweetDeck on the iPad or laptop. I sometimes follow links friends have sent. Then I review several news sources by going directly to websites or by looking at aggregated content.

When I find pertinent articles, video, photos or audio in my surfing, I often link to them and share the link via Twitter and Facebook. In the past, I clipped physical articles and filed them for reference later. Today, I clip media to Evernote and file in an electronic database called DevonThink which has an iPad app in beta testing now. What I once did manually, I now do electronically, seamlessly and instantaneously.

I still read physical books but I’m reading more electronically and even listening to audiobooks, which I’ve never done before. My audio listening is done while driving to work. As a result, I haven’t listened to radio much in the past nine months. One victim of my changing media habits is my morning rendezvous with NPR. Doesn’t happen anymore. And I’m aware that I retain audio information in my memory as well as, if not a bit better than, information I’ve read.

I find I’m reading more. I have iBooks, Kindle, nook, BibleReader and Audible on an iPad. I even have an audio reader on a GPS unit in the car. Digital readers haven’t diminished my reading, they’ve actually increased it.

As a writer and media producer, my research methods have changed substantially. Commonly, my research is likely to begin with a database search on Google, then to other sources including physical references. I haven’t used a brick and mortar library in recent memory except to vote. But I’m doing more research than ever.

Finally, I’m more connected across geographic boundaries than ever, and I’ve been globally connected for a long time. But now my connections are quicker, more available and more accessible than before digital media.

This isn’t the whole picture. I’m sure these media are also changing our learning styles, attention spans and cognition in other ways. But as I survey the critiques and endorsements of new media, I don’t get a clear enough picture to know the cumulative nor ultimate result. I doubt it was any different with the advent of the printing press, telegraph, telephone, radio, or television. It’s clear any new medium changes how we access information, use it, store it and, perhaps, even how we act upon it. But, for now, this is a fair assessment of how these media are changing some of my daily routine.

I’m curious how my experience squares with or is different from how you are using new media and if it is also changing you in unexpected ways?

One Response to “How New Media Are Changing Me”

  1. Dale September 24, 2010 at 2:38 pm #


    I’ll have to do one of these surveys/observations of my habits in a blog post.

    I was struck by this point: “It’s clear any new medium changes how we access information, use it, store it and, perhaps, even how we act upon it. ”

    I also see this, and in particular, I want to look into questions like the last one, to get at how some of these digitized habits change much more about us than the medium on which they are delivered. It gets at what McLuhan was onto when he said “the medium is the message”. I think of this whenever I hear people say that mediums are neutral (which I hear a lot of people say these days as the new “social media” are discussed in relation to the church). I’m not so sure that the neutrality extends to subtle changes in how we process information, and in how we treat it (and act upon it, as you ask). Print certainly was and is a medium that people consider “neutral”, and yet there are all those studies that explore how print changed the nature of how “authority” is perceived and received, such as the move from an culture dominated by oral transmission of story to a print-oriented transmission of “facts and information”, which gives text what seems to be an inflated status as some sort of arbiter of “solid truth” or some such thing.

    Anyway, I will be pointing to this post of yours when I do my little personal survey, and probably draw from this comment of mine into a related blog post on my blog. But thanks for raising up these issues. It’s the kind of stuff of which I don’t see enough in all the discussions about Social Media.

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