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Conceptualizing and Measuring Mobile Media Use

Digitization is changing media use habits rapidly. In the 1990s, we still had to use many individual devices such as TVs, computers, MP3 players, digital cameras and cell phones in order to satisfy our media-related needs. Nowadays, all it takes is reaching into one’s pocket as the smartphone is able to replace most of these devices – not just anytime, but anywhere.

This development makes it all the more important to rethink how to describe and measure the use of such devices in a way that satisfies its flexibility and complexity. Common measures of media use in research are usually limited to self-reported data on frequency and duration of use collected in surveys. However, this is accompanied by two problems. First, such self-reported data are usually very imprecise when compared to the results of more objective measures, e. g. using tracking or log file analysis. Second, the use of such devices is multidimensional and became so complex that simply measuring the time spent with it is no longer sufficient for representing it adequately. This project will investigate these two problems in order to suggest conceptual and methodological improvements. In particular, it will be examined whether dimensions such as the degree of habitualization or the situational diversity of use can contribute to explaining the use of mobile devices using the example of the smartphone.

The project is led by Martin Emmer and Roland Toth at the Division Media Use Research.

Important publications


Toth, R., & Trifonova, T. (2020). Somebody’s Watching Me: Smartphone Use Tracking and Reactivity. SocArXiv. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/7aqdx

Toth, R., & Trifonova, T. (2020, July 19). Somebody’s Watching Me: Smartphone Use Tracking and Reactivity. [Conference presentation]. 6th International Conference on Computational Social Science IC2S2, Amherst St. Cambridge, MA, USA.

Strippel, C. (2019). Log file analysis as a method for automated measurement of Internet usage. In C. Peter, T. K. Naab, & R. Kühne (Eds.), Measuring Media Use and Exposure: Recent Developments and Challenges (pp. 317–350). Köln: Herbert von Halem.

Strippel, C., & Emmer, M. (2015). Proxy-Logfile-Analyse: Möglichkeiten und Grenzen der automatisierten Messung individueller Online-Nutzung. In O. Hahn, R. Hohlfeld, & T. Knieper (Eds.), Digitale Öffentlichkeit(en) (pp. 85–103). Konstanz: UVK.