Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday's Keynote - Rainie on Internet Life

Lee Rainie is the Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which collects data on social trends in web use. Rainie is a former journalist and is working on a book.

For those of you who prefer getting information straight from the source, visit my podcast of the keynote.

Rainie's keynote was characterized by its rapid delivery and the prevalence of lists.

Eight Hallmarks of New Digital Media Systems

1. Digital gadgets are prevalent.

2. The Internet is at the center of the revolution. 73% of American adults use the Internet and 93% of teens use it. Half of the population have a broadband connection at home. Broadband users are different -- they’re content creators and they also search the web differently.

3. New gadgets allow people to enjoy media, gather information, and carry on communication anywhere. Wirelessness is its own adventure. Users who are wireless, especially those who enjoy mobile wirelessness, are growing. They’re different, too because they're much more into it. They're more likely to be content creators and are weaving the Internet into the moments of their lives. 88% of college students own cell phones; 81% own digital camera; and 63% have MP3 players.

4. Ordinary citizens are content creators. 55% of online teens have created their own profile on social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook. The majority of these teens are sensitive about posting personal information online. (Only 20% of online adults have such profiles.) 61% send a bulletin or group message to all of their friends. 82% send private messages to a friend. 84% post messages to a friend’s page or wall. 76% post comments to a friend’s blog. 33% of college students have blogs and regularly post to them. 54% read blogs. 12% of online adults have a blog and 35% read them. Some people don’t realize they’re reading a blog. 19% of online young adults have created an avatar -- “an icon which represents a user in a virtual reality/Internet setting” -- that interacts with others online. A scant 9% of adult Internet users have done this.

5. All these content creators have an audience. 54% of college students have read blogs, and 36% of adults do, too. Political commentators’ blogs get a lot of attention, but many more people are just journalling for their friends and family. Young people don’t like attracting a wider audience -- they’re blogging for their close friends and "two worst enemies." They don’t want parents, college admissions people, and prospective employers accessing their blogs. 14% of young people are podcasting.

6. Many are sharing what they know and feel online. 36% of young adults have rated a person, product or service online. 32% of adults have done so. These people believe this is a community service. 34% of teens have tagged online content, and 28% of adults have done that. 25% of teens have commented on videos and they post comments on blogs and photos. Only 13% of adults do this.

7. Online Americans are customizing their online experience with Web 2.0 tools. 40% of teens customize news and other information pages. Half are on specialty listservs. 25% of teens have set up RSS feeds. Some people don’t know that’s what they’re using.

8. Different people use these technologies in different ways, whether they be men and women, people of different ages, or those representing different ethnicities. Rainie categorized these users.

10 Major Technology User Groups

1. Omnivores, which are 8% of the population, are in their late 20s, are primariliy male, and represent diverse races. 89% have broadband. They tend to be students and are avid users of wireless, photo, and video. They voraciously blog and manage their own web pages. Although they're older Al Gore, and SIRSI’s Stephen Abrams are examples of this group.

2. Connectors, which are 7% of the population, are in their late 30s and predominantly female. They are into the communication aspect and are upscale. 86% have broadband. They're email fanatics + use instant messaging and cell phones. This group suspects their gadgets can do more for them, but they aren’t going to wade into user manuals to learn about the features. Examples: Diane Keaton and Jane Dysart, the IL Program Chair.

3. Lackluster Veterans, which are 8% of the population are 40ish, male dominant, and upscale. 77% have broadband access. They're not thrilled with information and communications technology. In fact, they're grumpy about being always on. They view technology as a necessary evil. Tony Soprano was Rainie's example. He shot his computer in one of the television shows.

4. Productivity Enhancers are 8% of the population. They're 40ish, upscale, and 71% have broadband at home. They represent the flip side of the lackluster veterans. They're not into blogging or creating content. Agent Jack Bauer from the TV series 24 was the example for this category.

5. Mobile Centrics are 10% of the population. They're in their 30s, middle income, and minorities rule. 37% have broadband. They love their cell phones. They're phone texters and photo takers, but not early adopters. They're likely to be single. Paris Hilton and Alicia Silverstone's character in Clueless were the examples for this category.

6. Connected but Hassled are 10% of the population. They're in their mid-40s, females, white, and middle income. 80% have broadband. They go online less frequently because technology is stressful, not fun. The GEICO Caveman was the example Rainie gave for this category.

7. Inexperienced Experimenters, 8% of the population, are 50ish, female dominant, represent diverse races, and middle income. 15% have broadband access. They have less online experience and fewer technology assets, but they're willing to give things a try. Example: Marge Simpson Googling herself and finding a photo of Homer sunbathing in the nude.

8. Light but Satisfied, 15% of the population, are in their mid-fifties, white, and have below-average income. 15% have broadband access. They're the people you have to phone to have them check their email. They are late adopters who love their TV and radio as they have always been delivered. Technology doesn’t play a major role in their lives. Example: Your oldest tech-wary relative.

9. Indifferents, 11% of the population, are in their late 40s, white, and have below-average income. 12% have broadband. They don’t like technology and don’t need it. “I don’t even have the Internet. I wouldn’t even know how to use it.” This quote is from Rainie's example who is a football coach. (The Chiefs? Sorry, I'm football illiterate!)

10. The Off the Network category represents 15% of the population. They're in their mid-60s, female, diverse racially, and the poorest group. None of them have broadband. They believe the Internet is full of porn and bad information so they're tech wary. They use traditional media. Example: Aunt Bee from Mayberry

The surprises from this study include how large the low-tech crowd is -- 49% -- and how small the technophile group is -- only 8%.

We're far from the mature phase of Internet technology adoption and use in the United States. There's a lot of technological capability sitting idle in people’s hands and homes.

“Demand pull” dimension of technology adoption lags “supply push” considerably. It’s going to take people a while to tap in. Librarians need to keep this in mind, especially with older patrons. (SPLers: Schedule more Internet classes!)

What type are you? Take the quiz: Rainie claimed we would take the quiz and be mad about the category we fell into.

Here is what connectivity is doing to us:

* As the volume of information grows; the Long Tail expands. Individual books, bloggers, etc. can garner bigger audiences.
* The velocity of information increases and "smart mobs" appear. Simple example of smart mobbing: teens feel they have a social obligation to text friends with movie reviews as they leave the theater.
* Venues of information intersecting with people multiply.
* Venturing (searching) for information changes. Search strategies and expectations spread in the Google era. People think the information they need is out there and can be quickly accessed.
* The vigilance of information either truncates or elongates attention. People can suffer from continuous partial attention or they do "deep dives" into subjects of interest. Some people are always on, even on vacations. They're concerned they'll miss helpful input.
* Valence (relevance) of information improves.
* Vetting of information becomes more social. People ping their social networks to check with friends if they don't trust information. They used to check with their librarian!
* Viewing of information is disaggregated and more horizontal. Per Allen Renear at University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, new reading strategies emerge as coping mechanisms. Examples: People scan abstracts rather than reading full articles. They read headlines rather than bodies of stories. They skim everything.
* Voting on and ventilating about information proliferates.
* inVention of information and visibility of new creators is enabled.

Rainie advised us to be confident in what we already know about how to meet people’s reference and entertainment (enlightenment) needs. The elements of our training as librarians are preeminent in this age. We know how to find, assess, and act on information. The value of these skills is more important than ever. Librarians know about citizens and their questions. We just have (or need) new ways of serving them.

Memorable quote: Rainie said people used to just read content, but now they can create their own. "Now the audience is on stage."

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