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Rethinking the Measuring of Mobile Media Use


Research Project: Rethinking the Measuring of Mobile Media Use (funded by the German Research Foundation)
Institute for Media and Communication Studies
Division Media Use Research

Principal Investigator:

The German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft - DFG)

Mar 01, 2022 — Feb 28, 2023
Contact Person:
Roland Toth, M. A.

Media use is a central concept in communication studies. Its measuring tends to get more and more complex since the expansion of the internet, or at the latest since the beginning of the smartphone era in 2007. Nowadays, numerous media-related activities can be realized everywhere and anytime by means of only one device. Through the integration into the everyday activities, media applications on smartphones are often used for a short time, but nevertheless very often and with many short interruptions. Developments such as these make the measuring of smartphone usage by means of classical measuring procedures – mostly self-reported frequency and duration that are asked for in surveys - imprecise and incomplete.

Firstly, within the scope of this research project a new conceptualization of smartphone use should be developed. Besides quantitative dimensions such as frequency and duration, it should also take qualitative dimensions into account that are significantly connected with the mediality of the smartphone and with its multifunctionality, frequent use and flexible applicability, i. e. gratification diversity, habitualization degree and contextual diversity. Moreover, the specific usage patterns of the device have led to the phenomenon of mobile vigilance, which describes a cognitive, psychologic and motivational bond with the smartphone and the expectation of constant availability of users. The specific effect should be used as an exemplification during the project.

Secondly, within the scope of a quantitative, empirical study an application should be developed and tested, by which the two advanced data gathering methods i. e. User Tracking/ Logging and Experience Sampling Method (ESM) can be applied in addition to a classical survey, in order to test the new conceptualization. It should be investigated whether these new data gathering methods have an advantage over the classical survey, when it comes to variables in media use research. This should be tested by means of the thesis, as to whether the three deducted qualitative dimensions of smartphone use can contribute to an explanation for the phenomenon of mobile vigilance.

The objective of the project is to make suggestions for a future standardized method for the measuring of mobile media use that is able to improve its validity.