After spending five days tracking my usage of all forms of media, I can only conclude that, boy, did I underestimate the complexity of this project. After all, I thought, I’m an old newspaperman. I’ve blogged professionally, for pete’s sake! How hard can it be? Plenty, let me tell you. The task of analyzing my data with the aid of Tableau, or event Excel proved, after three hours of wild-eyed hair-pulling, utterly beyond me. I’m man enough to admit there were tears. My only recourse, then, was to tote up figures the old-fashioned way, on a piece of paper, biting my tongue in concentration, pencil and eraser in hand. God, do I hate math, one of the reasons I went into journalism.

As a result, I have only a rough calculation of the percentages of my use of various media, only a preliminary understanding of the data, and no pie chart to illustrate the many ways I waste–er, use–my time. I plan to struggle manfully with the techno demons after class, but for now, here is what I have.

In a broad overview, I spend approximately half my time consuming various media. I don’t mean half my waking hours, but half my total hours, or close to it. On Sept 2, my media-est day, I devoted 13.6 hours on media. My least media-centric day was Aug. 30, when I consumed media only 6.66 hours (I like to think of it as my “anti-Christ day”), but that includes the evening of my bi-weekly poker game, which takes up three and-alf hours. The other three days ranged from 9 to 11 to 12 hours, rounding the numbers to the nearest whole numbers. Wow. Those are words I haven’t used since 11th grade.

You might think a mature fellow such as myself, certainly no digital native, would be horrified by numbers like these. It seems media is consuming my life. Like a shark! The truth is, however, that I always consumed media in mass quantities. It’s only that up until about ten years ago, that media consisted of print newspapers and magazines, books, television, radio, CDs, and so forth. Much of the time I would have spent with print media now goes to the Internet, either on my iPhone or on my laptop. I get my daily news on my iPhone, more than anywhere else. I do almost all my work on the laptop, whether it’s schoolwork or writing freelance articles, or researching stories for pitches, or writing personal creative stuff. Until the late ’90s, I would have done this same work in libraries, on the telephone, and in books. Until the late ’80s, I worked on a typewriter.

So the general character of my media use has not changed. I use it for work, for research, for entertainment. In my business, lucky me, entertainment and research frequently overlap. For example, I spent several hours during the five days inducing in what I call “aimless web surfing,” which mostly consists of following hypertexts from one tasty and irresistible morsel of information to another. Lately I’ve been obsessed by mythology (an old interest in any case) and it takes but little to get me off reading about the ancient Greeks or Gilgamesh or Odin or Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool), or Siegfried or the ancient Scythians or the Bible or… you get the idea. Just last night, I couldn’t sleep, so at 2 a.m. I fired up the old iPhone and read the first five chapters of Genesis, King James Version. Sublime.

When I was younger I sometimes read encyclopedias this way, or even dictionaries, and I devoured magazines. The problem, with sight-seeing along the Information Highway is the ease with which I can get lost, diverted from the destination of productive work. I suppose that was always true. I used to read at least three newspapers, cover to cover, every day. But if my work and habits have not changed in substance, only in form, does that mean that the digitization of Chauncey Mabe has had no effect (or affect)? If only it were so. The fact is, for me, while digital technology really does put virtually all information ever produced at my fingertips, making me far more efficient in the researching, reporting, and writing of freelance stories, for example, it has eroded not only my satisfaction but also my peace of mind. True, it is much easier to Google a subject than it is to drive to the library, wandering the stacks, fingering the card catalogue, perhaps consulting a research librarian. But the pleasure of the task is immensely lessened. The darting speed of digital information, the hurry-hurry of hypertext, the agitated context of stories and information on a computer screen seem like some kind of damnation compared to the calm pleasures of library research. Let us pause for a moment in honor of research librarians, most of whom must be cashiered into jobs at Walmart by now. I never met a one who was not a kind of nerd saint. A search engine with a personality.

While I find digital media to be innervating and in many ways unrewarding, I do not share Ulin’s valorization of book reading. For one thing, people continue to read books. I find it one of the few media ready to hand that does not excite me in an unpleasant way. And I must confess that streaming media is a boon, even to me. I watch Netflix and Hulu, like everyone else. I try to learn Spanish on my Duolingo app. I always loved audio books, beginning back in the ancient era of cassette tapes, continuing through the CD age. Now I download audio books to my iPhone, and listen to them with ease and pleasure.

The digital revolution comes with its advantages and, to me, some serious disadvantages. It’s not going anywhere, I reluctantly acknowledge, so I”ll adapt as best I can. Print will always be my preferred choice for pleasure reading, and serious news, too. But I’m going to keep up with Mr. Robot on my iPhone as well.

(Here follows my raw data)

Aug. 29


Thirty minutes with a print magazine (The New Yorker)

Five minutes with a print devotional

Two hours online organizing Dropbox

One hour online paying bills

Reading online in class 50 minutes

Two hours online surging the web and reading FB

Fifteen minutes streaming audio book on iPhone

Half hour watching MSNBC on TV

Five minutes iPhone tracking meals

Forty-five minutes reading news on iPhone

Half hour of homework online

Fifteen-minute conversation on iPhone

One hour reading a plain old book

585 minutes

9.75 hours

95 min print

210 minutes productive laptop

120 minutes unproductive

30 minutes tV

15 minutes talking phone

15 minutes audiobook iphone

45 minutes reading on iPhone






Aug. 30


Twenty minutes reading news iPhone

Watch video on iPhone while listening to meditation music in car (wife driving), twenty minutes

Ten minutes listening to audio book on iPhone while walking to yoga from car

Listen to CD player driving home, 20 minutes

Read schoolwork on iPhone, one hour

Forty minutes talking on iPhone

Twenty minutes checking email on computer

Ten minutes talking on iPhone

Ten minutes listening to audiobook iPhone while washing dishes

Fifteen minutes reading schoolwork on laptop

Two hours watching TV (Braindead)

One hour reading textbook on computer

Thirty-five minutes reading book

400 minutes

6.66 hours

80 minutes reading iphone

20 minutes watching video iphone

40 minutes listening music car cd

50 minutes talking on phone

95 minutes reading on computer

20 minutes audiobook iphone

120 minutes TV

95 minutes print


Aug 31


One hour on laptop reading FB, email, and textbook

Twenty minutes listening to audiobook on iPhone

Two hours reading textbook for BizCom class on laptop

Thirty minutes on iPhone listening to audiobook

Two hours following hyperlinks of trivial information, mostly about Norse mythology

Fifty minutes online during class

Personal writing laptop, ninety minutes

Two hours TV (Braindead, Mr Robot)

Reading Raw Shark forty-five minutes

Twenty minutes reading print magazine (The Week)

One hour reading print book for review (Perfume River, Robert Olen Butler)

735 minutes

12.25 hours

320 min productive laptop – email, school reading, personal writing

120 min aimless surfing laptop

120 minutes TV

125 minutes print –magazine, book

50 min audiobook iphone






Sept 1


One hour reading news on iPhone

Two hours lost on the side roads of the information highway

Two hours working and studying on laptop

Twenty minutes listening to audiobook iPhone

One hour watching Mr. Robot on TV

One hour audiobook on iPhone (the book, by the way, is Padraic Collum’s The Children of Odin)

One hour personal writing on Mac

Appx forty-five minutes in various phone conversations

In the middle of the night, one hour surfing the web (news, Tiny House porn, mythology)

665 minutes

11 hours

45 min phone talk

120 min audiobook iphone

180minutes aimless surfing

180 minutes productive laptop use – work, study, personal writing

60 minutes TV


Sept. 2


Twenty minutes reading news on iPhone

One hour researching new TVs on Mac

One hour on FB on Mac

Two hours researching freelance stories on Mac

Thirty minutes listening to audiobook (now it’s Lord Dunsany’s Worlds of Wonder)

One hour reading Raw Shark

Three hours researching freelance stories, writing pitches

Forty-five minutes ogling Tiny House website (it’s a sickness)

Untold minutes texting on iPhone, especially to daughter in grad school

One hour online trying to figure out how to fix TV

One hour online researching new TVs

Two hours computer working, organizing this material

815 minutes

13.6 hours

180 minutes researching TV matters – mine’s broken

105 minutes wasted on FB, Tiny House site

740 minutes productive laptop – work, schoolwork