Media Diet Project

Media Diet Project 150 pts.

For this assignment, you will take time to reflect on the role that communication technologies play in your everyday life. John B. Thompson (quoted in New Media: A Critical Introduction) argues, “an everyday world external to the media is central to individuals’ experience of their lives and their self- formation” (Lister et. al., 2003, p. 253). This assignment is designed to challenge that assumption by reflecting on data you generate in several ways: a media use log, and a media use test. You will build a website to organize your data, write a paper summarizing your findings, and present to class.

Step 1: Track

Weeks 1-4.

a. Track your media use. You’ll generate data about your media use in multiple ways:

Field Notes: Take notes on time, duration, activity, and any other observations you want to include (location, how you felt while using, how other people acted in response to your use mediated or real world, what you notice about other people using media, patterns in your use, intentions for use, unintended consequences of use, social activity, who you communicate with, channel switching, motivations for use, social expectations, etc).

Video Capture: Use Camtasia to record both your screen and you while using new media. Watch your video, and write a reaction post to what you observed in your video (no, you do not have to share the video on your website).

Walkthroughs: Find a partner (or use your webcam) to walk an audience through your use of new media. Explain the details of your scrolling through Facebook or Twitter. What do you think about when you use new media? What decisions do you make? Slow your use down to show an audience how complex your use really is.    

See Week 1 for a list of links to tools to help you track.

Minimum Requirement: Use each data gathering strategy at least once. Post preliminary findings for each strategy for a minimum of three posts.

b. Write a summary of your findings (5 paragraphs) across all your data. Did anything in your media habits surprise you? What patterns did you see emerging? Did you notice specific responses to specific friends? Certain times of day in which you were more active? Was your use of media a response to boredom? Summarize how you use new media, and what gratifications you get from it (or not).

c. Write a proposal for what pattern in your media use you’d like to explore in more depth. Choose one pattern, or one surprising finding from your tracking. Explain what you observed in this pattern, what you think it means, and how you might test it in Step 2.


  • an established project website, email url to prof by Wednesday 03 September.
  • At least one post summarizing preliminary findings from your fieldnotes.
  • At least one post summarizing preliminary findings from your video capture.
  • At least one post summarizing preliminary findings from your walkthrough.
  • A 5-paragraph summary of preliminary findings across all your data
  • A proposal for how you will test your new media use.

DUE 22 September.

Step 2: Test

Weeks 5-6. Now that you have some data to understand your use, find a 72 hour period to test your new media consumption. This test will be tailored to your new media habits based on your findings in Step 1, and your real lived life. Keep in mind the observations you made during Step 1 and take notes on differences you experience while testing your new media habits. Also consider taking notes on concepts from class (Rushkoff on Time, Place and Choice; Innis’s biases of media, etc.). You may choose any 72 hour period of time before the due date to implement your test. You may choose to take 3 days off new media entirely, or you may choose to identify hours you will log off, or you may binge on some new media you didn’t previously use, or you may actively join a new online community. You may choose to notify your networks (parents, profs, bosses, friends, etc.), or just disappear, but consider the consequences of your choice and be prepared to face them. The goal is to carefully the role of new media in your everyday lived life. Do you use it, or does it use you? Take notes on these network effects if you choose to test them with this assignment.

Post your notes with a short 300-word reflection post on your project website. DUE 03 October.

Step 3: Write

Write a 5 page paper reflecting on your personal relationship with communication technology. Your personal story of media use should reference concepts and theories from class and be set in your perspective on the larger societal relationships with communication technology. In your paper, you should focus on Thompson’s suggestion that an experience of life outside the media is critical to our identity and self-formation. This can be done in several ways. You might, for example, reflect on your sense of identity and how this is/is not changed by not having access to new media. Or, you could discuss the ways in which your interactions with others changed (or remained the same) as a result of your lack of new media access. Still another possibility is for you to write about the connection (or lack thereof) you felt towards the communities of which you’re a part. The goal of this paper is for you to reflect on your experience in light of one or more of the recent course themes we’ve discussed (identity, community, new media literacy, embodiment, etc.).

In your reflection, (1) make a clear argument (provide a thesis) as to the role technology/new media plays in your everyday life, (2) offer clear, specific examples from your fasting experience to support your thesis, and (3) draw upon the course texts to support your argument. Your paper should include an introduction, good transitions between ideas, and a well-conceived conclusion.

Post your paper to your project website. DUE 10 October. 

Step 4: Share

Share your finding with class. We’ll spend time in class discussing your findings. Come to class prepared to talk about how you made the choice to track what you did, one compelling finding from your observations, and how you understand your media use differently after close observation. 

Present to class. DUE 10 October.