Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Data Overload and the need for screens

I've come across two interesting reports in the last day.

The first is one from the charity Childwise that suggests young people now prefer their computer screens to those of their TVs. And what's more, when asked what object they could not live without, a majority now cite their computer. 

The average 5-16 year old now spends 6 hours a day in front of a PC screen.

All of this points to a major cultural shift taking place, as work/leisure boundaries blur. 

Young people now consider interactive communication to be a cornerstone of their daily social activities. Whether it be watchin YouTube videos, making content to upload, reading/writing a blog, sharing information or photos, the current generation consider the sit-back system of traditional TV consumption to be passé. 

You can read about the report here.

The second is a posting on a BBC blog by the technology writer Bill Thompson, who notes how a tendency to keep too many communication apps open on his computer is making it impossible to get any proper work done. Read it, empathise, then let someone else know about your frustrations on Twitter. 

A Man for Our Time - captured by multimedia

Apart from being inspired by the rhetoric and passion of President Obama yesterday, I was struck by the fact that this was the first time I had watched a huge news story unfold live using the internet. 

I was working at school, I had stuff that needed doing, and so the ideal solution was to use the BBC's live feed from BBC1 online. What struck me was how good the streaming video looked, the fact it didn't crash at all, and also that below the video window were live rolling comments from BBC correspondents and viewers.  It certainly made me feel like I was part of a global village.

I suspect that most people watched the inauguration on the TV, because frankly at this moment in time that's the best medium for such an event. But that didn't stop the various media outlets innovating in the online arena.

I particularly liked the 3D rolling panorama offered by CNN who partnered with Facebook. The technology was supplied by Microsoft's Photosynth software. The end result provides what none of the newspaper photos quite managed this morning - some idea of the scale of the event in the Washington Mall. 

Over at the BBC, technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones tried out as many ways of watching the event as he could. His report makes for interesting reading.

A few weeks ago I wrote about a great online app called You put in text, it analyses it into a word cloud - a visual representation of the text, based on the frequency of key words. Since then I've noticed it creeping into the mainstream media, and by today both the Guardian and the BBC were serving up word clouds of the President's speech, plus those of former leaders. 

So, a magnificent day for the new President and the nation he leads. An interesting glimpse too into the changing nature of media communication.