Sunday, 29 April 2007

My media consumption diet meme: and what's "media", anyway?

I've come excruciatingly late to this meme. Jeremiah Owyang started it, and John Tropea tagged me way back in Feb. I was offline for some weeks when John tagged me, and have been trying to catch up on my blog since. In internet time this is probably a year or two too late, but better late than never. There's internet time, dog years and Improbulus months. No prizes for guessing which runs the slowest!

As many people now know, for this meme you're supposed to list your media consumption diet with the most used on top. This has also crossed over a bit into a "my fave gadgets/software" post too, but the two are very closely related for me.

What's "media" anyway?

Being a detailed deconstructionist by instinct (sad but true), my initial reaction was in fact to ponder the meaning of "media" in this context. Of course looking at Jeremiah's original post you get an idea of what he's after, but trust me to always want to break things down...

Text, pictures, sound, audiovisual - our senses

At the purest, most basic yet broadest level, I think of media as:
  • text, absorbed visually - books, magazines, Webpages, emails
  • static images, also visual - photos, paintings, graphics on webpages or in emails
  • audio e.g. music, radio news, auditory naturally
  • video, both visual and audio of course - TV, cinema, online videos
In other words, it's consumption through our key senses.

And more senses...

It might be going too far at this point to consider "media" to extend to what is consumed via our other senses, like touch/sensation. But maybe not.

True virtual reality seems to be not too far around the corner now. Witness the Nintendo Wii with its 3D motion sensing and feedback, and the development of other haptic devices (though not much seems to be happening in teledildonics, not that I follow that field closely, of course, nope... - but it's odd, I'd have thought there was great money making potential there). Then the increasing sophistication of 3D printing, even of living tissue. Recording and playing back smells and scents, or "attaching" smells to digital photos to help you sniff them out, and the development of electronic noses and even electronic tongues that taste, and electronically simulating taste and "mouthfeel".

I do think that convergence of media, generally thought of as the merging of Net, TV and phone, will eventually lead to convergence of some of these aspects too, that media consumption via the (currently) lesser used senses will be a huge, huge growth area for the future. Anyway, back on point..

Or media consumption devices?

You could also consider media consumption by the type of device or tool used to consume it:
  • computer
  • TV
  • cinema
  • mobile phone
  • music players - MP3 or CD player
  • video players and portable media players (PMPs)
  • gaming device - XBox, Playstation, Wii
  • radio
  • etc.
(And by the way if you're talking convergence by device, I think it's not just the triple play of internet, TV and phone but also gaming consoles and of course music players, digital cameras, video cameras and indeed full computers too. Which is why I listed "gaming device" there).

Well I think most people who've written about their media consumption diet have effectively blended the two - type of media, type of device - so I'll do that too.

But first I'd say that at the most basic level I think my media consumption diet would be:
text >>> audiovisual >> audio > visual (non-text)

I'm impatient. Text is the quickest way to get an overview, literally take in the big picture depicted in a meaningful way, then absorb the bits I want. In terms of finding info rather than being passively entertained, linear audiovisual or audio is just too slow for me, and fast forward / rewind through audio/video just isn't as accurate as flipping pages or scrolling text.

As for trying to drag me to an art gallery or museum or on scenic walks, it's harder than trying to give a cat a bath, believe me. Though you can always try to bribe me with icecream. The operative word being "try".

And so, finally, on to my media consumption diet, set out in the more usual way. (No further digression hopefully, beyond saying that there's of course also increasing media production - what are blogs after all? - and increasing interplay and convergence between media consumption and production, the whole interactive TV, social Web 2.0 thang. OK, no more on that now!). Here goes.

My media consumption diet is (not surprisingly):
Internet >> paper / print ~= TV >>> music >>>> games >>>>> art (on the consumption versus production front, at least).



I'm on the net constantly, both at home and at work (broadband ADSL at home). Always had an enquiring mind, and I love having (almost) instant answers literally at my fingertips to the eternal what, why, when, where, how. Web as giant reference library, woohooooo! I'm forever rushing off to PC to look things up.

PC not Mac, because it's PCs at work and I figured the learning curve would be shallower with Windows at home too.

Firefox is my fave browser for speed, flexibility and power, but I use Internet Explorer 7 too despite its speed issues (even with tweaks) and lack of features - and not just for internet banking (though kudos to First Direct for a Fox-compatible site!). Some sites or services still work better in IE and e.g. sometimes PDFs which crash Fox open OK in IE.

But mainly, it's a privacy thing. I set Fox up to open certain sites in tabs on launch e.g. Blogger, with cookies saved so I'm automatically logged in to my (since New Blogger) Google Account.

Though Google now say they will anonymize server logs of users' details (queries, IP addresses etc) after 18 to 24 months, I still don't like the idea of Google keeping track of the searches made when logged in to my Google Account "for personalisation".

So I'll use IE for searches I don't want Google to associate with Improbulus (no sniggering at back, it could be quite innocuous, it's just none of Google's business that I've been researching X for instance). And I'll use IE even for searches which I don't mind anyone knowing about, just on principle. (I don't maintain a personalised Google homepage, for the same reason.)

I'm happy to get ads in Net searches, as of course they'll often be related to what I'm looking for.

Communication - email, feeds etc

Email. Gmail rules, particularly with its effective spam blocking and alias function (I use Spamgourmet too). Though I'm generally paranoid about my privacy I don't mind software agents reading my mail and serving up ads, some of those ads are actually quite useful. I figure that any free Webmail provider could read their users' mail if they want to anyway; my main protection is keeping my different online identities separate e.g. this one and my real one. I mostly access my Gmail via POP on Outlook 2003 unless I'm out, in which case for checking mail or writing quick emails I use the Nokia 7710 smartphone or LG Shine. I do have some niggles about Gmail, but that's another post...

I'm not a huge Microsoft fan but I'm a keyboard person and I'm too used to the keyboard shortcuts in Outlook to switch to Thunderbird though I tried a couple times (I even use draft Outlook emails for my personal notes, having not yet found note-taking software that suits me exactly - ctrl-n for new blank email, type title and tags in the subject, full notes in the body including links, pasted screenshots and files, ctrl-s to save to my Drafts folder, and all fully searchable. If only Outlook categories were a bit easier to use).

Feeds and news. I rarely use feed readers. I just keep an eye on some key sites like the main Google blogs, though mostly via email alerts (I've set Outlook plus some other apps to all launch on startup. Email arriving gets my attention even if there are lots of them, it feels easier and quicker to me reading emails than looking through feeds - maybe emails feel more bite-sized? Anyway, somehow, to me scanning feeds seems more of a chore, requiring more active work on my part. But that's just me).

Key sites, to me, are mainly the generators or creators of news and new info, more than those who merely report it. Sorry, no offence to journalists. I prefer to hear it straight from the "horse's mouth", or from sites (like Out-law) which include a clear link to the original source - press release, corporate blog, government paper etc. That's one reason I think the BBC website is one of the most authoritative, reliable news sites - they usually link to the original source in the right sidebar.

Another aside: I think that as competition for our attention increases but our spare time decreases, people will more and more prefer to cut things down and get their news from one or two media sources which they feel they can trust, which aren't afraid to reveal their original sources (within reason e.g. protecting whistleblowers), whose reports they know they can verify for themselves.

(My views, I admit, may be slightly coloured by the fact that once I was "in the know" behind the scenes, though only very peripherally - you know, the 23rd handmaiden from the left in the 458th scene's basket carrier's left littlest toenail trimmer's nailclipper sharpener - on something that was for a time widely reported in the media almost every day. I would read "news" reports and think, OMG where did they get that info from, they're printing that as fact but it's totally wrong, what do they think they're doing, how can they say that, where could they have got that idea from, are they just making it up or what? Now I'm really digressing on the power of the press and how people seem to accept things as true so much more readily just because "it was on the news". But I feel very strongly that we the public should be able to rely on journalists having some integrity and sense of social responsibility, when all too often we can't. We can, at least, reliably rely on the instinct to sell, sell, sell more papers, ads, etc. Ah, well.)

Anyway, must get back on track again! That was still on media so maybe not too much of a digression...

As I've so little time (this blog is effectively my 3rd job) I limit the sites I check and even so I still never have enough time to read everything I'd like to. Yes, I'm currently behind on checking my email alerts too, though I try to keep up with personal email that I get.

(Phones, don't forget phones, if we're talking communication they shouldn't be left out. I don't text much or even use the phone much, to be honest. I'm mentioning this under Communication but in terms of volume of usage it should go below TV and reading. Though I don't know if it's stretching it to call phone usage "media consumption", unless you're talking email or mobile TV etc on a phone.)

My ultimate dream gadget: full internet (Web and email, feeds etc) everywhere via a Psion 5mx with a phone and full broadband-speed Net access (web, email, everything) on an "all you can eat" fixed monthly fee price plan. (A real keyboard, not onscreen, is best for quick data entry - two hands faster than one - and I'm not the only one who feels that nothing beats the 5mx keyboard for data entry on the move, if you're a touch typist - in the Tube, the little room, etc. Plus the Symbian EPOC32 OS is rock solid and lightning fast). Oh and with a colour screen, voice recorder, camera/video recorder, music player, and headphone socket while I'm at it, well I can dream. Krusell case too of course. Now I'm really digressing! But Santa, if you're listening..?


Reading from paper, well that's mostly non-fiction magazines and the like. New Scientist, Financial Times, Private Eye. Fortean Times and T3 for fun. The occasional Economist and Wired. I read a lot for work and for general interest e.g. for this blog.

Nowadays I don't read much fiction though I did when I was a mere slip of a lass. Finished all the Agatha Christies by age 11, Asimovs by 13. As with video my favourite genres are crime and detective fiction (the puzzles, mysteries, whodunnit theme again), and SF, fantasy and horror (the "literature of ideas" theme). Faves: Robert B Parker, Janet Evanovich, Sue Grafton, Dick Francis, Terry Pratchett, Guy Gavriel Kay, David Feintuch (not dissimilar to Parker in terms of the integrity and honour themes, I've noticed, though rather more angst-ridden), Lois McMaster Bujold. All time faves include Asimov, Ellison, Russ and Tolkien, not surprisingly.

My fiction reading these days goes in spurts. I'll go to the library, borrow a big wodge of books, read them all in quick succession. Then not read fiction again for a few months.

Yes, borrow. I now mostly only buy books which I've already read and consider worth re-reading, or referring to. Reason - I read too quickly, if I bought everything I read I'd be out of both room and cash fast. Plus I prefer to try before I buy. So libraries are my mainstay for fiction.

Trilogyitis, bah. A rant about trilogyitis. It's a disease, I say. I hate with a passion the fad, too longrunning in my view, for trilogies in SF and fantasy. I think it's put a lot of readers off unnecessarily. Call me impatient, but I can't stand waiting a year for volume 2, then another for volume 3. I'll have forgotten what happened in vol 1 by the time they're out anyway. So, I'll wait until all 3 volumes are out and available on the shelves at the same time, and then I'll read them all in a row. Not before. I utterly refuse to.

I don't mind self-contained books in a series set against the same backdrop, possibly with a longer-term story arc, e.g. Bujold's, but I think trilogies sell the reader short. I guess trilogies must be more profitable for the publishers or they wouldn't butcher perfectly good books by splitting them into 3 volumes, often incomprehensible individually, but I'd much rather they rolled the 3 into one fat book and charged me triple for it. Kudos to Mary Gentle for Ash, for instance - one of my faves, though I haven't taken to everything she's written. Why can't there be more slim single books like many that Pat Cadigan writes, I ask?

If I pick up an interesting looking book but it's clearly part of a trilogy and not self-contained (or even if it is, but the author's not someone I already like), I put it straight back unless all the volumes are there. Yes, all. Sure I could miss something good that way, but as at least a few good books are released not as trilogies (e.g. Naomi Novik's series) I'll go for those instead. It's one way to pick what to read, and life is too short to battle with trilogies when there are other alternatives. /rant.

I hardly read non-fiction books, these days.

Electronic books. I've not tried e-paper devices yet and I won't till they're more advanced. They'll have to be as clear and easy on the eye as paper (my eyesight isn't brilliant even with glasses) and as quick and easy to flip through as books and magazines, though a search facility, quick navigation (links from contents pages, "go to" page X etc) and zooming would be essential additional features for an electronic reading gadget. A5 size, lightweight, water-resistant, computer connectivity (ideally wireless). New pages would have to come up instantly, if I had to wait even a second for that I'd scream. So as you can guess, with resolution and navigation not being what I'd like, I don't even read e-books at the moment, not even on my beloved Psion.


I watch at least an hour of TV a day, most days. It's a way to unwind after work and other stuff that I do (I'm out a lot), over a home-cooked dinner (I cook a few days' worth at a time then reheat). I have a widescreen Philips, no room on floor or wall for anything bigger or I'd have it.

I like crime/detective and SF/fantasy/horror, preferably with interesting plots leavened by a touch of wit and humour, and strong characterisation. I've probably seen or read too much as I usually guess whodunnnit very early on, or before the denouement anyway, so it matters that there are characters I can care about.

Or else I watch gripping action thrillers or light comedy fluff, both of which serve to take my mind off serious stuff and rest the brain. I rarely watch "heavy" angst-ridden worthy art films or foreign language subtitled etc fare these days and the word "experimental" has me running a googol miles, too much hard work, I watched more than my fair share of all that when I were a young 'un and now I just want to have a break and be entertained.

Fave series are listed in my profile but currently include The Closer, CSI, New Tricks, Without a Trace, Criminal Minds, The Inside, Numb8rs. Plus Lost, House, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, West Wing, Commander in Chief, Medium.

My favouritest mini-series of all time would include Maximum Bob, Buffy, Babylon 5.

PVRs. With my trusty Topfield 5800 personal video recorder (twin Freeview tuners, EPG, loads of great user-produced mini-applications), it's a constant battle to watch and delete stuff before I completely fill up its 250 GB hard drive. (I could archive to DVD but my DVD-RW drive that came with my Dell PC went bust and I've not got round to getting another yet). I very rarely watch live TV.

Yes, I often skip ads. But I do see the "sponsored by" bits before and after the ads, so I think sponsorship of programmes or channels is more effective these days. (And I watch some too if they're good - I love the comfy glove ads by Spontex for House (they should have had them for download from their website from the start, huge missed opportunity, though the ads are downloadable now, no doubt by popular demand), and the Cobra mini-movies. But I want to strangle them, throw something or worse when the annoying 118 men come on, and as for that pseudo American prat they have for CSI (I think it's CSI, I hate him so much I've blanked out what the show is and especially what product or service they're supposed to be advertising) grrrrr - they're positively counterproductive.)

DVD rentals? I barely have enough time to watch the programes and films I record from Freeview, as it is. So I rarely have time to go out and rent a DVD (and am too lazy to walk to the DVD rental shop, especially as the one nearest me has closed recently, victim of the growth in DVD rentals by post no doubt).

I've never taken to DVD rental by post. I know I can set the list of movies I'd like to see, but for me so much depends on my mood, and if the one they've sent me, though it's on my list, doesn't suit my current mood, it's no good for me and I won't watch it. I want to decide exactly what I feel like watching, as and when I have time to watch something.

I don't buy many DVDs, like with books I only buy if I want to re-watch for reasons of space and money. So it's just Lord of the Rings, Buffy, Babylon 5 pretty much. And I find I don't have the time to re-watch them anyway so I may just stop buying them.

Cable or satellite? For me it would be a waste of money subscribing for cable or satellite as I have trouble getting through my Freeview recordings as it is. Plus I considered cable before and the company's left hand clearly didn't know what their right was doing so I decided it wasn't worth it. Satellite would also be too troublesome as I live in a listed building and getting permission to have a dish would be nightmarish.

Mobile TV? Mobile TV on smartphones and PDAs etc, even laptops, don't really grab me (unless perhaps I'm desperate to keep up with something on the move, so I can see it would appeal to sports fans wanting the latest score etc. Which I'm not). I prefer video on a bigger screen, with remote control. Even TV on computer (e.g. Freetube) doesn't appeal very much to me unless I can watch it on my TV in decent size and quality.

VOD, downloadable internet TV, IPTV. I've been thinking of getting BT Vision video on demand - they provide a set top box so you can definitely watch downloaded films on your TV. If I do get BT Vision it would be mainly as a video or DVD rental substitute, so I can rent a movie I feel like watching without having to go outdoors and, eeeek, walk down the road. Especially in the winter, brrrrr... Which is probably why I rarely rent DVDs. I think I'd be much more likely to download something I can watch on a full TV screen in the comfort of my own home without having to move my butt more than a few feet.

I'm looking forward to the forthcoming BBC iPlayer for TV catchup over the Net, but will only use it seriously if I can pipe it from PC to widescreen TV (and of course if there's anything worth watching on the BBC channels!). I don't find watching video on my PC monitor much fun if it's more than a few minutes long (see my post on BBC iMP, the iPlayer's precursor, which I was involved in trialling; I'm also taking part in the BBC TV Test - I think this page is the only public one so far).

I expect I'll be watching more and more IPTV / video on demand.


I do once in a while go to movie theatres, but I feel no compulsion to rush to see the latest thing (well except for Lord of the Rings, went to see that). I'm quite happy to wait for films to come out on DVD or even TV. It's only for stuff I really want to see and where a smaller TV screen wouldn't do it justice, that I'll make the effort to go to a movie theater to see it.

The main times I'll go to the cinema will be to see films that I'm not likely to be able to get to see otherwise - like the annual London Film Festival and other film festivals that the BFI puts on. So annually I probably see as many movies as most people do, I just tend to cram them in all at once over short festival periods.


These days I produce more than consume. My time's very limited, and I'd rather spend it making music than listening to it (it's almost my second "job"). Plus, unlike many other people, I don't bother putting on background music. My focus is such that I wouldn't hear it if I was concentrating on something else, so there's no point. I listen to music as a primary activity when I can pay proper attention to what's being played - when I've time for it, that is.

The exceptions are:
  • music while travelling when I can't do anything else - radio or background music in a car or to send me to sleep on the plane (but not Tube or train, as even there I'd rather read or write - unless I can't get a seat!); and
  • MP3s I listen to while travelling to help me learn certain music.
So nowadays I really don't listen to CDs, radio or music on my PC much. But I'll listen to MP3s for learning, as mentioned, and occasionally go to live concerts and shows. I very rarely go to pure plays without any music.

My favourite music is vocal, whether pop, rock or classical. Orchestral or instrumental-only stuff sends me to sleep after a while, though I appreciate a good tune in whatever form. I guess I'm mainly a words person.


I think of gaming as media consumption, though its "consumption" is generally more active / interactive than passive. For me, it's too much hard work to little real purpose. For entertainment, or rather just letting my mind unwind a bit, I will play Freecell or Tetris or Brickbreaker (and like reading fiction I have phases where I'll play say Freecell continuously for a while), but I've never really got into the hardcore stuff.

It's my pragmatic bent I guess. I'll spend hours trying to figure out how to get a widget to work but wouldn't feel like spending that same time on Second Life.


My limit is cartoons of the Gary Larson or Private Eye variety - again, pics with words! Or pictures that say something.

Not much of a "pure image" person, me. Which may explain why I struggle so with visual stuff like CSS. Though oddly my friends say I compose photos quite well (I prefer portraits, expressions, people to scenery). I just don't have a particular interest in the consumption or production of visual art.

(As for what they call "art", installations and suchlike, puh-lease, don't get me started. It's sheer brass and cheek, not art. Anyone want to pay me zillions for my unmade bed, be my guest. How about my unwashed - well I was going to say something else but this is a family blog hah so I'll say T-shirt. Symbolic of life in all its crumpled reekiness, it is. There.)

Hmmm this post has turned out to be quite personal, in that I don't usually post so much about me, myself or even I. I figure people who read my blog are generally more interested in the tech and bloggy stuff and of course I want to cater to my readershop.

I did wonder about how much of a giveaway this would be, as I blog anonymously (this is why - and I now feel vindicated when even the venerable FT warns that what you say on your blog or social networking sites will influence potential employers). But to be honest only those who've really got to know me properly in real life would know these things about me. So the only ones who could identify me from what I've written would already know about this blog or would be good friends whom I could trust to keep this "secret". So I guess I'm OK there...

Thanks again to John for tagging me, I might never have thought to ramble on about all this otherwise!

And I now tag - well I don't know if there's some unwrtitten limit to how many you can tag but if so I'm just about to break it (and if you've already been tagged, then I've missed it haven't I, and sorry!):

From the Bloggers Brigade: Kirk, Liz, Aditya, Jasper, Satish, Amit, John, Efendi
From the Copyfighter Cohorts: Becky, Suw, Cory
From the Geekdinners Gang: Sarah, Ian

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