This week I took upon the challenge of subtly observing my housemates and the media consumption we share. The UNI share house is a magical place for a cheap room, shared dinners, no rules and dirty dishes. So I thought I would use this blog task to see just how much media is intertwined in our current lifestyle situation.
Pre-study I thought of our household to be quite social. We cook dinner together most nights and sit at the table with no TV on. When looking through the haze of it all though, it is evident that it is rare to find a moment when there isn’t some sort of connection to the outside world. The main moments we are all together is when it is time for food. Here are my following observations for the week.
8.00am. I wake up roughly around this time for breakfast. I sit on the couch with my muesli, on my phone, with no noise so that I do not disturb anyone. I flick between Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and emails. When housemates start wondering in to the living room, they too are attached to their phones or laptops, similarly flicking through a range of media channels they choose to use. We communicate obviously, with the common banter of “good morning”, “what are you doing today”, however we still are all fixated on our own circle of media throughout the discussion.
12.00pm. Lunch, usually we aren’t all home at the same time. One might be working, one is at UNI and one could be sleeping again. However, on three of the days I undertook this study, I realised the distraction of our own technological lives so subtly disguised. We may have been talking whilst we preparing a snack or lunch, however our mobiles were on the kitchen bench likewise and the TV or radio was on as well to fill background noise.
7.00pm. Dinner, Usually all four of us are home at this time for dinner. We decided it was cheaper, easier and friendlier to share the cooking between us. Most of the time we have the TV off. We do usually have some music playing though. My phone is in the lounge room right next to us generally, and the guys usually have theirs in their pockets, sometimes on the table. This time we use to talk about random things, from our day to current topical debates to what the plans are for the weekend. When something comes up in conversation that we aren’t sure of, or if you finish dinner before everyone else, the phone does come out.
It is crazy to think of this daily routine, combined with media usage at UNI, work and exercising. My life is a cycle of media usage and access. I read the news, I listen to music whilst going for a run and I study in the library with 20 tabs open on the Internet. My housemates then have their own cycle and media routine. Everyone’s digital footprint and daily cycle is out there in the world, whether we like it or not.
Generally speaking, organisations the world over then do want to collect and study this information for the purpose of marketing. I observed my households media usage and recorded it for my blog, but is it then ok for transnational companies to do the same? Well it is a fact that they do. This process Marketers begin with is called ethnographic research, defined as observing and describing “peoples and culture with their customs, habits and mutual differences” (Oxford dictionary, 2015). With this knowledge, the companies will then segment their target audience, creating personalised advertisements specific to the individual.
I studied my housemates without them knowing and when I told them, they were all interested by it. When we have individualised information focused for us, we tend to agree with it. When I receive emails from say asos.com.au or airbnb.com, I generally feel compelled to follow the link through on the email to explore it a little further, as that information is relevant to me and my current lifestyle. I am interested most of the time by content that is specialised for me. It makes me want to go somewhere, buy something or tell someone.
PhD Students from University College Dublin also found in their studies that “a well designed personalised advertisement may be more persuasive to a customer than a traditional billboard. However, we can expect users to be skeptical of an advertising entity’s attempts to gather information about them.” (Shannon, R. Et.al. 2009)
Whilst people may be skeptical, ethnographic research is important to gain the complete picture. However is such research then ok to come in to the home? Where is the line drawn? Home is the one place I feel separated from all the madness and consumption out in the world. I do not feel as if it is ok for external organisations to also gain access to this information as well. But the reality is that we all use media in the home. It was made evident to me in the ethnographic study of my own living arrangements and housemates, of just how much we do use it, even vaguely.
My point is that our digital footprint is everywhere we use it; the fact is that this now also includes the home. Is such collection of personalised media information dehumanising and minimising choice or is it vital to our globalised lifestyles?
Week 3 Blog: Households and media space
Shannon, Ross, et al. 2009. “Profiling and targeting opportunities in pervasive advertising”. University College Dublin, 2009. <http://mattstabeler.co.uk/publications/papers/pervasive_advertising_profiling_targeting.pdf>