How People Get Information About Their Community

October 6, 2016

 

Introduction

With dramatic changes in the way we communicate, where will communication go to next, and how do people use this technology to connect to their friends, family, and community? Seeking answers to these questions, I surveyed fellow students, friends, and family to see how they use technology to connect.  Using Survey Monkey, I created a survey of seven questions and shared it on the Full Sail Online platform for my class, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. As of this writing, 29 of my classmates, friends, family, and professional colleagues responded. Many of the respondents are tech savvy individuals, some are not as comfortable with technology. Based on those who reported completing the survey on my Facebook feed, the age of respondents range from as young as high school students to senior citizens in the 80s and beyond.

 

Summary of the Literature

Much has changed in the area of communications since the telephone became commercially available in the late 19th century. Our phones are no longer simply confined to the home, they are now an essential accessory to the daily life of millions of individuals. The phone has transformed from a device used to communicate verbally, to a powerful handheld computer linked to the internet. Text, voice, video, instant messaging, social media, search engines, and a vast array of powerful applications are readily available to the user at any given moment of the day. 

 

Computers have changed drastically as well. The size of computers has shrunk from vast, sprawling, dust and temperature controlled rooms the size of warehouses, to laptops thin enough to fit comfortably in a manila envelope. The amount of data stored and transmitted has exploded and service providers have had to change their business models and infrastructures to keep up with demand. A growing number of individuals in our culture have an insatiable hunger for information on a whim, and grow frustrated when detached from the source, and reach for their smartphone in sometimes the most inappropriate or even dangerous times and places. As a result laws have had to be amended for the safety of others.

 

There are currently numerous studies on the effects these changes have on individuals and society at large. I was interested to find out how my circle of influence was effected and how that impacted the way they connect. That curiosity lead to the creation of the survey. I was surprised at some of the answers to my questions. 

 

How do you connect with friends and family?

Written correspondence has declined in use and the art of cursive script has begun to gradually disappear from curricula in schools. Notes, quizzes, tests, and other class work may still be paper based, but many assignments are now turned in electronically and have specific font and formatting requirements that can only be achieved by advanced word processing or publishing software. Pocket protectors and writing implements are far less commonly found, and in their place are smartphones with advanced tools and applications readily available with the touch of a screen. Not surprisingly written correspondence was reported by only five respondents. Even telephone communication was reportedly less used than in person conversation. Text and social media were reported as the most utilized mode of communication. One method I overlooked was email, and some of the responses may have been skewed as a result.

 

How many working mobile or cell phones are currently in your household?

It became clear that for the most part, cell phones are a personal item. Each adult household member has his or her own cell phone. Many teen age household members also have their own cell phone. A cell phone is as vital to an individual as their house and car keys. A question that I did not consider, that would be worth exploring in another survey would be, “Does your household have an active land line telephone?” In my own household we do have a land line, however the vast majority of calls are phone solicitors attempting to collect survey information. Most of these calls are political in nature. The “do not call list” does  not eliminate these calls. We may disconnect it at some point in the future.

 

Which of the following devices do you most prefer to use to connect to the internet?

With nearly 50% of the survey respondents preferring to use a smartphone over other devices, the smart phone was the big winner of the day. The convenience, portability, speed, and versatility of the smartphone may have a great deal to do with its popularity. Data plans offered by wireless companies have had to keep up by offering more and more data, some plans even offering “unlimited” data plans. Which types of apps do you currently have on your smartphone? The staggering number of applications available for smartphones, renders calculator, pen, or even wallet obsolete. From the responses listed below, their is clearly a wide range of apps used. Some respondents chose “other.” The other apps listed were email, mobile banking, health, and fitness. One respondent stated that they did not have a smartphone and one respondent stated, “I have so many apps, I need apps for my apps.” 

 

Where do you currently get your news about local, community, national, or global events?

As a child, the television was the main source of news and information in my home. Newspapers, magazines, and other media were also used. With hundreds of television channels available including news only and weather only channels, television is still a major source of news and information. Radio and print sources have declined as major sources, but the most used source now appears to be web news sites. Gone are the days of supposed bias free news, many sources are clear in their biases and cater to their viewer’s and user’s similar biases. Information is sought after not only for its content, but also its format. 

 

Through which of the following online formats do you prefer to learn about companies and the products or services they offer?

Social media is gaining ground in the realm of shopping. Although social media is immersed with at least as much advertising as television, the real power of marketing found a stronghold in shares and likes on social media. Shopping sites offer consumer reviews that are far more accessible than waiting for an issue of a consumer  magazine to come out months later. The impact can be nearly instantaneous and can drive sales higher and faster than any marketing tool has done in the past. The reverse effect can be nearly as devastating, at least for a time. Rumors of kangaroo meat in burgers could much more easily be ignored than something in print with a catching visual. Of course as the truth about products and services is shared, many who have felt manipulated become a bit more cynical, at least for a time. When shopping we want to know the experiences of others, so reviews and social media posts are sources for finding out the experience of others.

 

 

On a typical day, about how many hours do you spend looking at content on a video streaming site?

It is clear that many respondents do watch streaming video content, what is not clear is whether this content is preferred on a specific device. It would be interesting to explore this subject further. The entertainment options available vary widely. Video, audio, music, game and other entertainment video are just a small sampling. 

 

Conclusion

The landline telephone is disappearing from many American homes. The smartphone with its multiple applications make this handheld device an indispensable tool. No longer bound by a bulky tower, CRT monitor, keyboard, mouse, and printer, the smartphone has radically changed how people connect, learn about the world around them, shop, and more. The smartphone combines the elements of television, print, radio, computer, map, and so much more in this pocket sized source. People are more and more dependent on this little device and finding they no longer need the bulkier predecessors. Information is now available at the moment it is wanted or needed, where ever that may be. The impacts on our lives are generating conversation and changing the way we communicate. Advertisers and other marketing professionals have had to reinvent themselves in order to present  their messages. 

 

Television, radio, print, and other traditional forms of media have had to reinvent themselves as well. Live audio and video streaming on demand is replacing the “prime time” of the past. Advertisers have had to find new and innovative ways to get their messages to viewers. Not only has the format changed, but the pace has changed from fast, to instantaneous. Looking forward, what will be next to revolutionize the way we communicate and connect to each other?

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