Lee Rainie | Talks at Google

Lee Rainie | Talks at Google


>>Nikolas: [inaudible] has published somewhere
around, more than 200 reports on what is happening on the Internet, how the Internet is changing
our society, and how it is generally teaching us lots of new things; everything from politics
to censorship. So, the, the amount of, of different reports and, and interesting stuff
out of the Pew Internet & American Life Project is just amazing. So I’m really happy to have
our speaker here today. Lee Rainie has been the director of, of the Project for quite
some time, since–>>(Lee) Ten years.>>Nikolas: ten years now and before it, he
came to the Pew Internet Project he was the Managing Editor of the US News & World Report.
He’s a graduate of Harvard University, has a master’s degree in political science from
them, Long Island University. And he’s today going to be talking on as you’ve probably
seen these little things, “The Rise of Networked Individuals: The Millennial Tide.” So, please
welcome Lee Rainie. [applause]>>Lee: It is, it’s an honor for me and the
Pew Internet Project to, to be here. It, one of the really fun things about a job like
mine is people are nice to you, like Nikolas and it, he had no reason to be nice to me
other than he works at a great place and he’s a nice guy and has given me a wonderful opportunity. For those of you who might need a, a Pew 101,
Pew, I- I’m funded by a wonderful public charity called the Pew Charitable Trusts. They had
funded me to be- to generate information. We do primary research into the social impact
of the Internet. The Pew does other work that supports advocacy to help make the world better
in a lot of ways; in the environment, in healthcare, education, and, and, and social policy. We’re different from that in the sense that
Pew has ordered us not to promote an agenda. We, we literally take no stands on policy
issues related to the Internet, technologies, companies, or people. But we do try to do
primary research that would be useful to people who are helping build the Internet at every
level, including wonderful folks like you. And Pew is a family name. It’s not an acronym,
it’s not P-E-W all Caps, it’s Pew, it’s a family name, it-, it’s a, it’s a great oil
and shipping fortune from the late 19th century that was passed along to the children of the
family. They created charitable trusts. It’s, it’s, and so I-, it’s a precious thing to
me because it’s a family name so I, I, I hope I don’t mess up and, and embarrass the wonderful
family that’s been helping me. And in order to understand where I’m coming
from, it, people don’t necessarily grasp that I, that an organization can be based in Washington
and have no policy point of view. We call ourselves a “fact tank” because we don’t advocate
for things and finally that, that didn’t seem to be working in a, a, a geologist actually
came up to a colleague of mine and said, “I get what you are. You’re an Internet geologist;
you study the rocks, you just don’t judge the rocks.” So that’s a, that’s a great way
to understand what we are. As I say, we study the social impacts of the
Internet. So we look at how the Internet affects families and communities and healthcare and
education and things like that. And I will be talking about our research, but I’m, I’m
pretty interested in hearing from you if you know any of the work that we’ve done or if
you think about the existence of an institution like ours. What should a place like ours that has no
agenda that has support to do primary research, what should we be looking at in the context
of the social impact of the Internet? I’d, I’d be particularly interested in hearing
about survey ideas because we do-, the data I’m going to be presenting, a lot of it will
be based on surveys. But we are just now dipping our toes in the water of thinking about how
an organization like ours can do computational social science. So I, I, in the questions
that you have, and I would encourage you to ask questions as they arise. I’d be interested
in hearing about your ideas, what we should do and particularly how we can use sor-, the
massive amounts of data that are being generated here and in other places in the world. And the final thing I’m going to do before
I start talking about what I’m going to say is, is to issue my standard apology at the
beginning of any speech I give. I am, have acculturated myself in the two worst communications
cultures in America. I was born and raised in New York so I talk really fast, so I apologize
all, of, at the beginning now that I’m gonna speak quickly. I can’t help myself. This is
in my DNA. And then, of course, I move to Washington at the midway part of my life so
I can talk really long. So I, I can filibuster fast is basically what I can do and I’m sorry
for that now. [audience member laughs] If I’m really going too fast for you, if you’re
having trouble understanding me, raise your hand. Give me a crook in my cheek or something
like that and I will try to respond to you. What I was gonna do today is, is talk about
a, a sort of grand synthesis of the work that we’ve been doing since we went into business
in 2000 and, and then to explore ideas about how we can move forward, not only with our
survey work but with this computational research. The big idea that we’ve sort of pulled together,
thanks to our, our research and, and readings in, in other areas, is that people have moved
in their social structures from a position of sort of tight-knit, bounded social relationships
where they live in small communities that everybody knows your business and everybody
knows everybody else’s business and everybody knows each other. That’s the world the villages,
the tight-knit families, and even tight-knit workplaces. The argument that we see emerging
in our data, and it began to emerge even before the technology revolutions that we are under,
is that the world has moved more towards networks. A colleague of mine, who matter of fact I’m
writing a book with him, a sociologist at the University of Toronto named Barry Wellman,
has talked about life in the latter half of the 20th century and the emerging part of
the 21st century as being lived in a state of networked individualism where we’ve moved
from these tight-knit groups, where we get our social support and our care and feeding
and nurturing in the world, to more networking behavior where we can maneuver a little bit
more easily through more dispersed networks and more kinds of social relations. But we
pay some pr-, prices for that social change that I’ll talk about later. Before I get to the technology piece of this
I will just run through a couple of big social and political trends that are already driving
culture towards networked individualism, which means that people have more power themselves
to be their own individual actors, or people are forced to be their own individual actors
because social structures around them that were built on that tight-knit networks were,
were changing. The first big change, of course, is affluence
and technology itself. Th-, it’s put in to our hands, particularly in the developed world,
a sense that we can do more things on our own. We can array, we can use media, we can
use o-, other tools at our disposal to do things that it used to take larger groups
of people and collectives to perform. The second thing is that family composition
itself has forced people to be networkers, as roles inside families have become even
more networked themselves. Think about each spouse has his or her own address book, his
or h- own professional network to deal with, his or h-, own, his or her own social networks
to deal with when they have troubles in their lives. Families themselves have become networks and
so people even inside their own households have now had to take more responsibility on
for managing their own lives and, and, and engaging the world in their own ways. There’s
obviously been a proliferation of consumer choice in the world. We have to make more
choices and we want to make more choices as, as the array of stuff that enters our life
and the array of services has grown, so we have to be active agents in exploring all
of that. Income and wealth volatility have increased
in, in particularly in America in the past two generations. Job security and job longevity
have decreased; we’re cycling through more jobs doing more things with ups and downs
in our wealth status, ups and downs in our income status. We just have to be on top of
more things. The old social contract, as you know, about somebody l-locking in with an
employer at age 19, living with that employer to age 60 or 65, having all his or her needs
met by that employer during the period of employment and then even post-employment.
That is broken down now in the age of multiple careers, m-massive churn in the job market
and things like that. That’s caused a, an increase in free agency. There’s a wonderful ro-, book written a couple
of years ago by Daniel Pink who talked about the rise of the number of Americans who were
on their own in the workplace. Sometimes by choice, because they had the tools and the
capacity and the knowledge to do it, and because they want to do it. They want to be their
own boss. Some people by circumstances that were forced on them; they had to add another
income stream to their life so they did things after work in their homes, or they tried to
sell things on the weekend, or they developed an EBay or Amazon cont-, account to sell things. Overall, Pink added up in about 2001-2002
that there were 35 million people who were sole proprietors working on their own businesses
or working in very small family businesses that it, that was a doubling of the number
who were in free agency kinds of situations a decade before. And there are probably more
still now since we’ve churned through a recession now that is forcing more people to act as
their own agents or supplement their work life with other kinds of things that they
do on their own. There’s been a big change in, in employer
relationships with employees where now employees have to take more care of their healthcare
and of their own pensions. Again, when in, in that lifetime guarantee of work situation,
the employer would provide the pension, you served your time in the company, you went
out and the-, and the company kept sending you checks. That is no longer the case for the majority
of Americans. They have to manage their own retirement, they have to think about their
own investments, and they have to plan for them in ways. So that’s forced them to fall
back again into individual strategies rather than group strategies to manage their stuff. And then finally there is sort of bigger social
ch-, changes outside the realms of, of, of people’s personal lives that have also prompted
them to become more independent actors in the world rather than group actors in the
world. I call this sort of D-I-Y, Do It Yourself politics and religion even. In a, in colleagues
work that, that’s done by the Pew Research Center for the people in the press, they do
a lot of political anal-, analyst and their just down the hall from us. They live in the
same organization that we do. They have charted now, for the first time
in the history of polling, that the largest block of voters in this country are self-defined
independents. There are more people who say now, “I am independent of political parties,”
than say they are attached to either the Democratic or the Republican parties. We’ve never seen this before so again, it
may, it’s a trend that pushes people more towards cobbling together their own political
belief system, their own values and structures, rather than affiliating with formal institutions.
In religion, amazingly enough, the same trend is taking hold. Forty-four percent of Americans,
in a survey that was done by our colleagues at the Pew Religion Forum, have changed the
religion of their childhood in the course of their adulthood. So 44% of people in America
now are practicing a religion or connecting to some kind of faith system that is not the
same one that they grew up with and were taught. I, people are again sort of mixing and matching
some other belief systems or they’re finding some other places that serve their needs than
the ones that served their parents. Nobody has ever done work like that before so I can’t
say that that trend is massively greater than it was in the past. It’s probably pretty typically
American compared to lots of other cultures, but it still goes to show that there are significant
numbers of people who are sort of making it up as they go and acting as, as networked
individuals. And finally, even before the Internet and
mobile revolution, but certainly accelerated by both those revolutions, there’s the DIY
health world that we’re in. There are a lot more people now that are acting as, as more
aggressively as the agents of their own healthcare. They are looking up stuff. In, in the old,
in the pre-Internet days, in all kinds of pamphlets and books and magazines and, and
things like that. Now, of course, they’re turning to the Internet to make sense of the
things that have been told to them about what’s wrong with them or even before they’ve been
diagnosed to try to figure out what’s going on in their lives and so that they can become
active agents in their own care. In a way that you think of the, the pre-Internet
model of the doctor-patient re-, relationship, patient has a couple of meanings in America.
The patient was patient. Sort of waited for the doctor to decide after a two minute encounter
everything that was wrong with you and prescribe everything for you, right? Well, the, those
patients are not patient anymore. They’re going out and they’re, they’re, they’re doing
their own searches and they they’re walking into doctor’s offices with lots of printouts
from the Web and saying, “Why not give me this drug?” or, “Why didn’t you tell me about
this side effect?” or, “Why didn’t you tell me about this clinic that is giving a new
experimental treatment on this?” So people again are being much more active
in managing the central affairs of their life. That’s the hallmark of network individualism.
And, of course, technology enters the picture and puts everything that has already come
before it on steroids. All of the trends that were in evidence in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s,
before the, the Internet was mass adopted and before mobile phones became staples of
people’s lives, are now sort of intensified in all of these ways. And it’s particularly
true of those who are under age 30. The people that we call “millennials”, the
people who have grown up in a, in respect, in a world where it was not possible to know
a world without the Internet. And increasingly, not to know a world without cell phones and
mobile connectivity built into it. People are now acting as these, as, as networked
individuals in ways that they couldn’t have before they had these technology tools available
to them. Quickly, to orient you about the dimensions
of the, of the tech revolution, when we went into business, we were sort of in the midway.
We went in to, we did our first survey in March of 2000, so we were sort of midway through
the mass adoption period of the consumer Internet. The first survey we did in March of 2000,
46% of adults used the Internet, 73% of teenagers used the Internet. Now, it’s 75% of adults
and 93% of teenagers. It’s important to remember as you are, are thinking about that, that’s,
that’s an incredible growth story and it’s an incredible adoption story that in some
sense is unparalleled in, in the sort of mass consumer goods, but it’s still the case that
25% of Americans don’t use the Internet. They are older, they are less well-educated,
they have fewer resources available to them. They are likely to have a handicap, a, a,
or a disability and in America they’re much less likely to feel comfortable speaking English
as their primary language. We do our survey work both in English and Spanish and we ask
at the very beginning, “How would you like to take the survey?” The people who choose
to take the survey in Spanish are less likely, statistically, significantly, to be Internet
users than those who are comfortable with English. Yeah?>>audience1: Yeah, I was going to ask about
the 7%, not the 25%. What about the 7%–>>Lee: The 7–>>audience1: of teenagers [inaudible]>>Lee: The seven percent of teenagers who
do not use the Internet are mostly lower income or rural. Some, some are, have handicaps but
in many cases it’s available at their schools or local libraries and they just are, aren’t
comfortable with it or aren’t happy to say that they are an Internet user. They often
will use their friends to do key communications for them like texting, emailing, or something
like that. They will often have their friends do searches for them but they don’t classify
themselves as Internet users so it-, there’s a bit of a knowledge issue; there’s definitely
a resource issue. They are poorer than the rest of Americans; they’re much more likely
to be rural. This, this sort of second way that we’ve seen
in, incredible change in the Internet is that in that first survey we asked a, about broadband
connections. Less than 5% of Americans had broadband connections. Now 62% of Americans
have them at home. So the Internet experience at home now is high-speed, always on, it’s
not great high-speed but it’s, it’s a very different experience from the dial-up experience
and in our research we consistently see the people who convert from dial-up to broadband
become vastly different kinds of Internet users. They are, they build it more into the
rhythms of their lives, they care about it more, they’re on it more, they like the outcomes
of their Internu-, Internet use better and it is, it is transforming even yet again as
premium services come online and as places like yours are offering speeds up to a, a,
a, a gigabit. At the time we were, we first went into business,
half the c-, adults in the country had cell phones; now 80% do. At the time we went into
existence, we didn’t even ask a question about wireless connectivity. It was only something
that people with the most sophisticated equipment could possibly do, is connect to the Internet
wirelessly. Now, we find that 53% of, of people connect
either through wireless cards in there, their laptops or portable computers, or through
their handheld devices. About a third of cell phone owners now connect to the Internet through
their cell phones. And in some respects, it’s changing the nature of the digital divide
because they’re disproportionately minorities. They are more likely to be Hispanic or African
American than they are to be white and so the digital divide even for non-Internet users
is shrinking a bit because mobile connectivity is bringing more people on-, online. And, of course, we didn-, we didn-, we don’t
ask cloud questions in 2000 and we don’t ask a consistent battery of cloud questions because
it’s really hard to capture and people don’t quite know whether they’re on the cloud or
not. But it’s eas-, it’s sort of easier to say that there were very few people who had
like Webmail accounts in 2000 and now probably over two-thirds use cloud computing functions
in one way, shape, or another. Fifty-seven percent, as I’ll tell you later,
57% of Internet users now are social networkers, which is all taking place in the cloud. So,
the environment that we measured just in the life of the project in ten years has gone
from slow connections through wires to my computer to fast mobile connections through
somebody else’s server and that has changed peoples relationship to information and changed
their relationship to other people and again, made them more performing like networked individuals. One of the things that networked individuals
do in, in, in this environment over time, is that they change the composition of their
networks. One of the things that we’ve seen in the life of the project is that, that networks
are now bigger than they used to be, depending on how you classify it. They’re looser in
the sense that there are probably not that many more tight-knit friends that people will
describe in their networks, but there are many more loose connections, weak ties, or
even sort of very distant ties in people’s lives with whom they can interact and from
whom they can solicit support and offer support if they want to. And so, the networks have expanded in really
interesting ways, particularly in that more casual realm as people can maintain their
relationships with others pretty easily with technology rather than having to phone call
somebody all the time or make appointments to meet them. It’s just easier to have these
relationships have meaning, even in a very casual sense because technology is used. Layers of, networks have become more segmented.
People now, this is the essence of networked individuals and people have portions of their
network that they consult depending on the needs that they have in their life and the
needs that others express to them. So that some people, think about your own
networks. If you had a financial problem, there are probably a couple of people in your
network that you’d ping to help you answer questions or solve problems and that. They’d
be different from the people you would consult if you had a health problem, who would still
yet be different if you had a spiritual or emotional problem in your life. So, we’re now segmenting our layers based
on functionality, on people’s closeness to you, on your need, and at the time of your
need. And so this networked invi-, individualism environment is one where people are more liberated
than they were in the past. Now that social atmosphere of the small town where everybody
was connected to everybody else and your mom could tell everybody else what was going on
with you and they’d discipline you too. That has been broken apart and it’s more liberating.
People have more maneuvering room than they used to, to get through, negotiate life and
not have every element of their business known by everybody in there, in their network. So,
they, in some sense, most people would say, “That’s a, that’s not a bad thing.” The same time, the social safety net that
they had in that world of tight networks is a bit more frayed. They can’t depend on a
cl-, small cluster of people always to anticipate their needs, always to meet them where they,
where they needed to, or always to call on them when they had needs. So people have to
work harder in this environment to get their needs met. And one of the, the, they do two
things connected to, to social networking that matter a lot, particularly in the context
of this company. The first is they use their social networks
more to, to do a lot more things for them and as people are in an environment, for instance,
that is full of data coming at them; full of inputs, full of media, fu-, just, you know,
information overload is the standard way we talk about this. The primary coping strategy
that people use in that is to turn to their networks; to help them filter information,
to help them curate information, to help them assess information. And if you encounter lots
of information after you’ve done queries in the world and you’re not quite sure what weight
to give what fact, people turn to their net-, to their networks, particularly the experts
in their networks to help them make sense of all that they’ve got. And then the new feature of networks is that
the, particularly those outer rings of networks, they become an audience for social networkers.
They can become people that you broadcast to if you have a social network site or profile.
They can be people if you have a blog that you can tell your story to without necessarily
having it be a reciprocal relationship or having, expecting anything back from them
other than their attention and their care and every once in a blue moon maybe answering
things that you have to do. So why, let me just stop there, it, it’s,
it’s my one sort of filibuster pause moment to make sure that, that one part of the data
dump that I’ve gone through makes sense to you. Just, it mostly makes sense? Ok, good. So I’ll quickly run through now eight ways
that I think the information ecosystem has changed. Thanks, in, in great measure to,
to folks like you and company, companies like this and why that matters in the context of,
of the way people think about and use their social networking, their social networks. The, obviously, the first one is that the
volume of information itself has increased. There is just more stuff being generated in
more ways, flowing into people’s lives, in an ambient environment where they can connect
to the Internet everywhere. It literally is all around them and people begin to think
of it as all around them. And in some sense, that’s great. Americans say they like lots of information,
lots of choice. They don’t want to have restrictions or, or limits placed on it. On the same s-,
side of the coin though, it’s, it’s disorienting to have that much stuff endlessly pouring
at you and have a sense that an even bigger sense, wa-, waves are, are coming past the
one that the tsunami that’s already hitting you. So the sense that I can master maybe
stuff today but God knows what’s going to happen tomorrow as more stuff flows into my
life. So that’s, th-, the volume of information
and, and, and the sense that people have about its meaning to their life is disorienting
and, and sometimes exciting, but oftentimes a, a big challenge. The second way the ecosystem has changed is
that the variety of sources of information have proliferated. Obviously, when you have
more cable ch-, channels to watch, more websites to go to, more search engines to choose from,
and so many, and more gadgets to display them all on, people have a sense that they are
now encountering more information from more places, more people, more points of view than
they used to before. It’s not necessarily the case that they’re taking advantage of
it. You know there are a lot of people who are narrowing their information universe,
using new tools, to, to, to get the information that mostly lines up with the information
they, or the world as they see it or the belief system if they have it. But it’s still the
case that there is just more stuff out there that adds to the sense that the volume is
growing. And, and new creators are obviously coming on the scene every day. Right now, we basically add up all the ways
people can create content online and our, our rough guess is that about two-thirds of
adults and three-quarters teenagers are content creators. They have done one, at least one
thing and usually multiple things that have pushed out content for others to see and share
online. And that just changed the way that they act in networks and changed the way that
they maintain their networks in a variety of ways. Just quickly running down and more than half
of Internet users now, adult, adults, are social network site users. Three-quarters
of teenagers, more than three-quarters of twenty-something’s use social networking sites.
About half of adults and about three-quarters of teenagers share photos online. It-, and the people who do that are really
different social beings than the people who don’t share pictures online. They are just
more engaged with their friends, they know more about their friends, they’re confident
that their friends know more about them and, and in picture sharing itself is a special
networking activity that wasn’t really afforded in the days before the Internet. About a third
share personal creations of one kind or another. They’ve, they’ve composed something, they’ve
written something, they’ve drawn a piece of art and they share it online. About a third now contribute to rankings and
gradings online. They’ve posted comments, they’ve done a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on
the star rating system. We consider that, its simple content creation, but it’s still
then still contributing their sense of what’s going on to the world. About a quarter have
created content tags and, and left them up for others to see. About another quarter posts comments on sites
and blogs so that they think of themselves as participators in the news environment,
in the health environment, in the politics and civics environment, in all kinds of places. About 20 percent of, of adults are Twitter
users. I-, compared to only about eight percent of teenagers. Twitter is not for teenagers,
it’s for twenty-something’s, and even more for thirty-something’s a-, and forty-something’s.
Fifteen percent of people still have a personal website. Fifteen percent of people s-, are
content remixers. They find things online, pictures, music, videos, and other things,
they, they play around with it in one shape or form and then push it back out for the
others to enjoy. So they’re, the remix culture is very alive and well on the Internet. And
about 14% are bloggers. There is one sort of special dimension to
new data that I thought would be important to the, the YouTube folks who are watching
or in the room. We’re just about to put out some new data on, on video sharing and video
use online. Now, for the first time in our measurements, more than half of American adults,
more than two-thirds of Internet users have consumed or downloaded video online and 14%
share videos. They up, upload them. And we have some data in there showing up, the meaning
of those, of those uploads and, and the purposes for which people do them and they, who they
think the audience is for those, for those videos. And interestingly enough, we’re just
beginning to capture the earliest phase of a number that I know is going to grow over
time. Eight percent of Internet users have watched
Internet programming on their TVs. They plug their, their computer stuff, or they plug
a USB device into their TVs and now the TV is increasingly likely to be a hub of all
kinds of content, not just broadcasting cable content. So that, that’s the end of the second
part of the, the ecosystem change, content creation and visibility of creators. The third change is that people’s vigilance
has changed. The, the v-patterns of my words might be coming clear to you, clear to you
now. That’s my word for attention. And attention is actually changing in two directions in
this environment. The most obvious one, an-, and the one that
gets the most cultural commentary is, is it’s getting truncated. Multitasking has now collapsed.
Lots a-, lots of people’s attention into short, little snack type bites and there’s less deliberate,
purposeful, long-term engagement with content than before. You might have heard my wonderful friend’s
idea, Linda Stone, Technology Consultant, who has worked in a variety of places; talks
about us all living our lives in a state of continuous partial attention. Where every
device we have in our lives is constantly on and constantly capable of, of interrupting
us. And she worries about the stress that that creates in our life. I hear from people
in business contexts that that’s the only way to live. You’ve got to be on the grid,
you’ve got to make sure that you’re available for interventions from bosses and clients
and customers and even competitors and it’s, it’s not something that you have discretion
over. So, attention is getting truncated, but it’s
also getting elongated in this world. This is great age of, of amateur experts. If you
want to get a, a, an experts gain and expertise in a subject that you didn’t care about a
year ago, a week ago, or a month ago, you can do it now, thanks to the wonderful tools
and the wonderful content that’s available online. And so, the healthcare example is a primary
example of how people who didn’t know that they or a loved one had a condition yesterday,
did find out and now are anxious to become the world-class expert on that subject and
can do it in this environment. They can access clinical trials, they can get the same kind
of medical literature that their specialist provider provides them. There are people who
worry about this, too. I mean, it, the, the, the, the age of the amateur expert is fr-,
makes people worried that you guys probably hear from a lot. Well, this has destroyed this traditional
structures of gate keeping in our culture that used to do careful editing and careful
fact-checking and, and make sure that the best, most highest-quality information that’s
filtered through the system before it was disseminated, now any knucklehead can, can
put out anything and make it look halfway credible and stuff. And there’s a lot of cultural
commotion about whether this is good or not. Andrew Keen wrote a book called “The Cult
of the Amateur” wh-, that sort of codified this argument that we’re not doing ourselves
any favor by adding so many more voices from so many other points of view with so little
credentialing a, ba-, supporting them and so few processes sometimes supporting their
information. So it’s just, a, you know, I’m not going to settle that argument. We don’t
take positions on things, but it’s certainly true that attention is, is splaying out in
both directions in this environment thanks to technology. The four changes of velocity of information
is changing; and it, it, and the way that this most dramatically shows up in our data
is, is not so much big stories that we all find out really quickly when big news happens,
like the, the, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, or the, or, or the earth-, or the Times Square
attempted terror bombing. We always have found out about that stuff in the age of TV. We’ve
found out relatively quickly about that. What’s different about this age is the middle tier
of information that matters mostly to us. The velocity of that information is what’s
picked up and been disorienting to people in this environment. Think of the ways that
they set up alerts, and RSS streams, and they use listservs and things to gather up information
on the subjects and policies and personalities and, and hobbies that matter to them. Now, all this stuff floods in to their life,
not necessarily in real time, but close to real time in ways that it never used to before.
They used to have to subscribe to specialty publications or go to specialty meetings to
learn about new things that are happening. Now that in-, information input is coming
in relatively quickly. And about half or more Internet users have set up some sort of way
to, to participate in groups online and learn about this middle information. [audience chatter] The fifth change is that venues and availability
of information have changed. It used to be that we had appointments with media. We watched
certain TV shows at certain times that they were on; we watched on the different platforms
that they were made available on that, that, we did it on a schedule that they gave us.
Well now, in the era of mobile connectivity devices that give us media anytime and anywhere,
we are in charge of the playlist. We are watching TV on something other than
a traditional TV. We’re reading newspapers on something other than traditional newspapers
and it’s rebalanced the relationship the people who used to be the producers and articulators
of the scheduling of the information and the consumers, who now have much more control,
not only of, of when they’re going to encounter media, but their capacity to, to contribute
to media. The sixth change is the vibrance of information
has changed, too. The immersive qualities of information in this age has gotten a lot
better as computing power, bandwidth has grown, th-,even the pixels we can display have become
more tightly packed and more colorful. There are now more engaging worlds, particularly
in the gaming environment, but also in all kinds of, of, in virtual spaces that are pretty
compelling, and pretty interesting and pretty connected to what, what interest’s people.
I would argue that, y-, that, that, that this company in particular is at the forefront
of true trends that we are going to be measuring a lot in the coming, in the coming years just
because they speak to this issue of the, of the vibrance of information–augmented reality.
I mean, we’re just packing more stuff as we merge the virtual and real worlds with data
on top of, of real artifacts and real landscapes and things. People are en-, engaging most spaces now in
different ways in the mobile environment and we’ll do so even more still as more information
gets packed in, more knowledge gets embedded in artifacts and as the apps get better. It’s
just, it’s just that simple and of course, Mirror Worlds, you guys have given us the
iconic example of that in, in Google Earth. It just, these are just powerful tools now
where stuff that we know and we experience can be embedded into representations of the
real world. I, that makes people more capable of being actors in that real world in the
sense of, of network individualism. The seventh change is the balance of information
has gotten better. We find more stuff that is relevant to us than ever before, thanks
in large part because search engines are doing such a wonderful job at that. The Semantic
Web mi-, might be even better at, at, at giving us information like that, but even in simple
forms now about half of Internet users, in one way, shape, or form, customize information
flows into them. They, they set up RSS feeds, they, they customize a web page, they build,
they belong to listservs or other kinds of groups that act as sentries and, and information
sources for them on the particular things that they care about. [audience chatter] The final change is in voting and ventilation
about in-, information is, well, actually let me take your question now. Yeah.>>Audience Male 2: Would you say the [inaudible]>>Lee: It, well collectively it’s about half
of Internet users have done one thing or another that customizes flows of information into
their life at least a part of the time. It’s alerts, it’s streams, it’s, it’s the web plate
configuration, you know, stuff like that. And, and we even count listserv users if they
are of a certain kind who are active within their group and are depending on that group
to feed them information about the subject that the group was formed around. It’s probably,
I probably, if you’re being skeptical about that number, I appreciate you’re skeptical
and n-, n-, no, I think it’s probably a little low. I think if we actually did real close observational
work, we’d see a lot more people even using mental strategies, not just technological
strategies to customize the flow of information. And you know there’s a lot of interesting
research now coming out of the scholarly community about people being more strategic readers
now than they used to be. And they’re the strategies, literally eye scan tests, have
shown how they parsed all the stuff that they need to much more rapidly now and, and their
interesting ways that they make choices to read more deeply in the certain things that,
that seem to be interesting or relevant or, or breakthroughs in their fields. Is that,
is that helpful?>>Audience2: [inaudible]>>Lee: Yeah, it’s, I think, the way we think
about it is, is two completely things. Whe-, I, in the, when I’m talking about the relevance
of information, I’m talking about strategies that people deliberately set up to use so
that they can get access to the content that matters to them. In the context of content
creation, social networking, and stuff like that, people are doing other things with that.
In some sense they’re, they’re, they’re depending on their networks to be sentries and information
filters for them, but there are a lot of other reasons that people have participated in that
universe as well. They want to share their lives, they want to do touch points with people
in their network, they want to see what’s going on in people’s lives. That maybe isn’t
relative or relevant to particular things they care about but they like that person
and they want to know what that person had for lunch or where that person is going on
vacation. So it’s, it’s measuring two sl-, different things. They’re not, I, I don’t
see them as in conflict. And so the, the, the eighth point is that
voting and ventilation about information is proliferating as people tag content and comment.
And, and when we did some work looking at how people use news sites and one of the things
we found is that a, a primary marker for people of a trustworthy news site now is the ability
to comment and read other people’s comments about news stories. As toxic as they are,
and as incendiary as lots of the commenting is on media sites, people still think that
that’s now a new element of, of, of trust that they have with that organization and,
and, and a willingness of that organization to be transparent. A lot of people don’t care what’s on, on the
content of the comments but they like the fact that they’re there and they like the
fact that there is available interactivity. So, what is all this technology done to networks,
particularly to millennials, the people who are under 30 and are again living in this
life? For the first, most obvious, thing to say about it is that it’s made networks more
vivid for people. They actually have a physical sense of their social networks that their
parents, their grandparents, and their other ancestors never had in part because the technology,
in many cases, displays the networks for them and allows them to see what is going on and
stay in touch in ways that they never could before. So, networks themselves in people’s
lives are reified. They’re, they’re made human in ways that they, that they weren’t before.
A-, this technology has allowed for immediate ad hoc creation of networks. Maybe you’re familiar with the wonderful,
well, two actual wonderful books, Clay Shirky’s book, “Here Comes Everybody”, and Howard Rheingold’s
book, “Smart Mobs”. People f-, in this environment, form networks to them solve problems on the
fly. A lot of times their networks are permanent people, but in many cases when people have
a simple need to answer a question, or a simple query, or something like that, they will just
sort of ping their network in the broadest sense. They’ll post it on Facebook, they’ll tw-,
they’ll tweet it, they’ll stick it on their blog and they, and th-, the crowd will answer
their question or, or the crowd will give them input and that’s, the network assembles
for that purpose and then disbands. And that’s the sort of new function in networks that
is enabled by these technologies. These networks have added more segments, as I described before,
especially related to communities of interest. And one of the most striking things, again,
that we see in our health research is the power of network, social network segments
that we call, “just in time, just like me” networks. Where people that have a particular
need… I’ve just been diagnosed, what’s it like? Or, I’ve got a, I’ve got an appointment
at the doctors. Can someone drive me there? I, my child is, has got this. My dad needs
this kind of care. And people, who are, in many cases, strangers in, in the right spaces
under the right circumstances, will answer their questions based on their particular
parallel circumstances. There is a special power in that, in networks,
even though it, they might be taking place between strangers because wer-, when people
are in situations of acute need, they mostly like to hear from people who have gone through
the same thing and are mostly like them. So, it, it, even more so than family members who
might offer words of comfort, or are trusted friends like a minister who might offer words
of wisdom or words of counsel, if you can find the mother who has gone through has gone
through the exact same thing with roughly the same age child that you’re going through,
there’s a special power and meaning that, that is brought out by these new kinds of
networks. This new technology has made the act of media
making a part of networking activity. Media now are, are literally active agents in, in
people’s networks. I get knowing nods when I go out and speak to the world and I speak
to journalistic groups and library groups and media companies and, and non-profits of
all kinds when I say,” Think about th-, your networks. Think about this point in the following
way: Do you use Google as a tie or a node in your network?” [male voice from audience] And people will nod yes. That they will, when
they have a need, it’s particularly obvious, it starts with an information query, but if
they know that their network can’t solve it or if it’s something embarrassing that they
don’t want to share with their network, or if it’s at a time of day when they don’t want
to bother anybody in their network, they will turn to the Internet, generically, but often
to a search engine like Google to begin the process of finding out what’s going on, how
can I cope with it, where can I the support that I need. So media itself, the Internet sort of generically,
and search engines in particular, are active agents now in people’s networks that they
consult as they, as they have done, as people have always done with their networks which
is to solve problems, make decisions, and gain support that they need. That means that organizations can now be much
more active agents in people’s networks than they ever used to. And since media now is
personal and social, even organizations that are using these media are in people’s minds
now; sort of nodes in their networks. If they have a question they want resolved they are
as happy to turn to a helpful institution like a library, like a search engine, like
a non-profit that might be able to give them a, r-, information about resources in their
community, and think of that as an active agent in their network. And when we ask people about how they solve
problems and how they get their information needs met, we often find that they consult
three or four different types of media, different types of people. And media themselves now
are active players in that segmenting of, of social networking, markets, and information
queries. And finally, the big change, s-, one of the big changes in networks that has
been brought upon by, by technology, is that consequential strangers and, and that outer
layer of a network can be much more active players in people’s networks as they are trying
to a-, have questions answered. You don’t have to know somebody intimately
to ask for their help and in this environment get somebody’s help back. It’s just me-, meant,
th-, that again that people added another layer or two to their social networks because
they can count on the goodness of strangers in many cases, or count on the attention of
strangers as they are trying to negotiate the world. The generational story in this is, is pretty
interesting. It’s, i-, it, it, those who have grown up with these technologies are i-, add
20% to all the data points I gave you before if you want to talk about people under age
30. They are much more active, much more filtering, much more engaged, much more likely to be
concerned about things than, than their elders. They are the ones who, and now, obviously
live in a network environment and think of the network as this sort of dashboard of their,
not only of the Internet to them, but of their social world. They check in constantly, they
monitor constantly, they feel they themselves are being monitored constantly; many of them
think now that they have an obligation to their networks to post material, to update
where they are and what’s going on and post pictures and, and things like that. So, so, the people now who are under 30 have
a much more expansive sense about what social networks can mean and what they, what role
that they play in people’s lives, which doesn’t mean that they don’t care about privacy and
sharing and, and all the, the issues related to that. It just means they have a different
sense of it and they have a, a sort of a logic of life that grows out of first, their use
of the Internet, and now the use of their mobile phones. That I want to be in touch,
I want to be perpetually in contact because that’s what these technologies allow me to
be. And that’s kind of fun because I like my friends, I like to, to be engaged with
my friends. And I’m finally going to run through a, a
bunch of questions that we wrestle with which sort of the, a series of questions about the
dark side, or issues about the dark side of all this life because it’s a, it’s a pretty
rosy picture that I’ve been painting because people like it, and they say they like it,
and they say they get things out of it. But there are things to think about and I, I would
invite your attention to these and maybe we can think about how we could structure questions
with your data sets that might, might bring helpful answers. One of the questions is jus-, tech-induced
isolation. There are people who worry that this environment is so compelling now that
people will turn to it as a substitute for engagement in real life. That people prefer
living in virtual space rather than face-to-face space because it’s easier, it’s less hassle,
it’s less threatening in some respects, and it’s just, it’s just an easier way to be,
particularly if you’re not necessarily the most extroverted person. A lot of the data
we see cuts against that. Tha-, that the people who are the heaviest tech users are also the
most socially engaged, the, have the most, the, large-scale and most diverse networks. But there is something to, to worry about
that obviously nags at the culture and, and, and we get it reflected in our lives a lot
of times. There, obviously there is the privacy question. In this environment where so much
is being disclosed and so much is being captured and so much can be m-, molded together, there
are ways now that people are anxious about the degree to which they are ceding control
of their identity. The millennials story in this is a little
bit different. My friend, Dana Boyd, i-, has the smartest formula, formulation of this.
In the policy sphere in privacy, you talk about Personally Identifiable Information,
P-I-I, right? That’s the term of art. Well, Dana says for kids or for people, you
know, under 30, it’s not so much PII as P-E-I; they worry about Personally Embarrassing Information.
Their metric for figuring out what to disclose or what can come back to bite them is not
necessarily their email address or their cell phone number that can be used to text, or
their birthday, which all of them will disclose under virtually any circumstances. But it’s
stuff that’s embarrassing that could come back to challenge who they are and to make
life more uncomfortable for them as they find new employers, find new significant others,
find all sorts of new ways to engage the world and so privacy has a somewhat different context
in this, in, in this social networking environment than it might have had, especially for Americans,
in the past. And then they finally, there’s, there’s this
sort of biggest series of issues that these technologies allow all sorts of great social
interactions and community formation to take place. It is indiscriminate about whether
good guys are performing those acts or bad guys. Th-, it’s just as easy for bad guys
to find new communities of interest and perform new sort of outreach with these technologies,
recruit new members, gain new things, and actually reinforce their belief system. And in this environment, it’s a lot easier
to find people who think exactly like you do. And you can sc-, screen the world in a
way that you don’t have contrary information or, or other data that challenges that point
of view and so it’s self-reinforcing. So, lots of communities get power out of that.
Think of the people who suffer from rare cancers who now have new hope because they can meet
people like them and learn from people like them, but it’s the same dynamic that allows
terrorists and pedophiles and other awful actors also to engage in that kind of behavior. So that’s, jus-, to get out of the act of
depressing you in the final moment of my talk, I, I will say that the evidence about the
power of the social networks is pretty clear on this. There is a long here, history of
data, f-, that Wellman and others have collected on this that people who have big networks,
particularly with lots of weak ties, th-, the people that are outside that boundary
of, of, of really tight-knit friends, and people who have diverse networks, people who
have people in their networks who don’t share their same belief system, don’t share their
same ec-, socioeconomic status, their same race or creed or color, or ha-, people who
have more diversity in their networks got a lot of benefits out of that. People who
have bigger, broader networks are healthier, wealthier, happier and from a social researchers
perspective, they build better communities. They just do be-, more stuff, they’re more
civically engaged in part because they have lots of reasons to be connected to others
and feel civically engaged. I’ve, I’ve taken a lot of your time and I really appreciate
your sticking with me and I’m happy to answer questions now about our work and both from
a technical end but I’d mostly like to hear kind of what you think would be interesting
for a place like mine that looks at the social impact w-, w-, what we might be profitably
looking into. Yeah?>>Audience Male 3: [inaudible]>>Lee: “What’s changing?” is the question
just for those who are, are watching. The blog numbers have been absolutely steady state
since 2005, and it’s a much harder subject to ask about now because blogging or blog-like
functions are baked into lots of other tec-, technology. So, people say, “I’m doing social
networking activity,” even when they’re writing on their MySpace blog in the blog space. So,
that’s been harder to capture; still, an incredible growth in the social networking space itself.
An-, an-, it older adults are now, which is freaking out the kids, but that’s i-, we’re
still seeing a lot. Twitter has s-, shown some growth although
and it might be the case that that’s beginning to taper off for-, in America anyway. The
video numbers are higher than w-, we’re comparing them to 2007 numbers and they’re significantly
higher than 2007. And what’s, what’s interesting it, is though, even in the content creation
space there’s more sort of activity in that realm. So people a-, are not just posting
single pictures, they’re posting large albums. And they’re not just posting one-off videos
of two seconds of them being stupid on the street corner, but they’re doing lots of videos. So the intensity of it is growing and in,
that’s a dramatic part of the story, almost as much as the volume of, or the, the size
of the population growing. So there’s, there’s still more to do and there’s, I’m trying to
think of what other, other ways that we’re going to be trying to catch as well. I-, It’ll
be interesting to see what happens to this in the apps culture; whether they’re, whether
apps are enabling of this stuff, or whether apps sort of pull people back into more sort
of singular, not necessarily unsocial, but, but sort of singular engagements with other
people and media, rather than sort of multiple engagements. Yeah?>>Audience Male 4: I, I’ve seen and in fact,
lived through a transition from typewriters to keyboards and most of my interaction with
a computer has been sitting at something that actually has a physical keyboard. Whereas,
when I look at my nieces with their cell phones, and I, of course, have a Nexus one in my pocket
and use it more and more often. I guess it’s got a keyboard, it’s got a virtual keyboard
but I don’t use it in the same way at all.>>Lee: Right.>>Audience 4: Now, I have to imagine that
that transition is affecting both the content creation versus content consuming and also
the nature of the content being created. It’s easier to take that picture with this than
it is to write two paragraphs. You know, I can write something that’s 140 characters
but more than that, I don’t really want–>>Lee: Yeah.>>Audience 4: I don’t want to spend. So, I,
I wondered if any of your research or any of your surveys have shown a transition as
people move away from desktop systems and into the mobile computing world in what they’re
creating and the nature of what they read or what they look at.>>Lee: Yeah, the, the question was about the,
the possible change and the nature of what people are creating as we move from a computer
environment to a mobile environment. Everything that you said is, is happening. Although,
we don’t, we don’t track it as, as so much as a change as a sort of add-on. In many cases,
there are people now who are tor, living a life on their mobile device that is, that
is supplanting time that they spent on their computers. And they are, they’re somewhat
different content creators, th-, but the sort of big story that we capture, we don’t ask,
you know detailed questions about frequency. They’re doing both. Those people tend to have multiple devices
in their lives, multiple times with access during the day to different devices and they
think now, they’re beginning to think about their devices serving different purposes in
ways that they didn’t before. So there’s, I mean, the, the standard story with lots
of content creation is that there’s a, an infatuation phase for everybody and then there’s
a drop-off after you’ve blogged a couple of times and y-, you know, three people read
it and they don’t say anything nice about it, you stop blogging and things. So that, that, that continues to happen but
I think you’re absolutely right. We see that in, in the mobile environment because cameras
and video, cameras are baked into the devices now there’s j-, just a lot more picture sharing
going on. It’s done on the fly. We don’t yet see m-, changes in, in activities with social
networking sites yet, but w-, wh-, it’s one of the things that we’re going to keep watching
because it, it, it’ll be interesting to see if people begin to think that th-, literally
life-logging through their social networking site or something else. And that, and it, and the, the sort of general
trend towards, away from text towards video is probably true in time allocation, but wh-,
one of the most interesting stories that we have captured in our teenage work is that
texting is alive and well in part because it serves different social purposes from video
or other kinds of content creation. It’s just nice to be private when you’re just sitting
in the back seat of the car when you can text it or do it under the dinner table. Or you
can do it in your classroom when your teacher isn’t looking. Or you can do it in the hallways
when you don’t want somebody to overhear what you’re saying. There is just a special power to certain kinds
of, of text transactions that doesn’t at all relate to the fact that they’re texts. It
relates to the fact that they can be much more private and secure than video, verbal
kinds of conversations. So there’s something going on in that space where text is just
elevated and elevated and elevated as a, as a, a-, we measure it by the frequency of contact
with friends outside of school. Texting has overtaken everything now by frequency of contact,
not necessarily meaning of contact. And we’ll, d-, y-, a, I would, it’s, it’s, it is, it
is shifting, but it’s more the case that people are now doing multiple things with multiple
devices and aren’t necessarily giving up a lot yet in the computing environment for the
mobile environment. Yeah?>>Audience Male 5: [inaudible]>>Lee: Happier and more civically engaged.>>Audience5: [inaudible]>>Lee: Yeah.>>Audience 5: [inaudible ]>>Lee: That’s a great question. The question
is on causality or, or, or, or does technology make your social networks, therefore make
you healthy, wealthy, w-, happy, and, and, and civically engaged. We don’t have longitudinal
data on this so the answer is we don’t know how, the directional arrow. It probably goes
in both directions because we see for sure on the technology side that the people who
increasingly intensify their engagement also ha-, grow their networks. They’re just; they’re
bigger today than they were yesterday. Would that maybe not have happened with that
technology? It’s possible. It might be a life stage event, it might be related to their
employment, it might be related to something going on in their community that matters.
But it’s, it’s generally the case that the more technology you have and the more that
you’re engaged with it, the bigger things, the bigger your network is, the more diverse
it is, and the more diverse it’s become over time. The, the other, the other way that we’ve seen
this is and it, this, this, i-, we can’t say that it for sure yet because the 2008 election
was so different for Americans than elections that came before. But there were, you, you
could see that the heavy technology users were much more likely to be voters than not,
and there were more heavy technology users and more voters than before. And obviously, there was something going on
with younger voters and the Obama campaign and so it would be interesting to see in 2012
whether that first glimmer, and particularly among social networkers. The social networkers
themselve-, people in social networking sites were so active in promoting him, mobilizing
their friends, hosting new groups, forming new groups, joining new groups, that there,
it seemed to be causing a higher level engagement and then eventually higher levels of voting,
but we don’t have enough data to know for sure whether that’s happening. And there is pretty good research in, c-,
from other places showing at the, at least from a social psychological standpoint, that
Internet use, heavy Internet use makes you more of what you already are. Extroverts became
more extroverted; introverts became more introverted and I, we haven’t been able to duplicate that.
We haven’t even gone after it but it’s, it’s, it’s probably a pretty mixed picture. [pause] Yeah?>>Audience Male 6: I’m old enough to remember
the 60s when people talk about the generation gap. [inaudible ] And now I feel like we’ve
gotten back to that point where society is again [inaudible] I wonder if anybody has
looked at [inaudible].>>Lee: Right.>>audience6: [inaudible]>>Lee: Yeah.>>audience6: So I’m wondering if there is
[inaudible]>>Lee: The, the question is about generational
a, ferment and strife, and the 60s compared to now. The, the work that we’ve done looking
at generational differences over time, but particularly now, suggest that technology
is a, a primary marker of the differences. Although, there is not nearly the hostility
and contentiousness over technology use and the meaning of technology that there was,
for instance, in arguments over civil rights and women’s rights and the, the conduct in
the Vietnam War and the structure of government and, and things like that. So, it’s, so the nature of the conflict, particularly
around technology is not nearly as intense. The consensus view is that younger people
know it better, use it better, are, are more adept at it and you know, ok, we can live
with that. They, they might be doing s-, silly things with it but it’s not like there are
families being ripped asunder in great numbers because of technology use of that type. The parallels between this sort of larger,
cultural issues that were unfolding in the 60s and then unfolding now, actually holds
up pretty well. I mean, th-, there, there’s an economy that is going through a, a wrench.
The, in the 60s it was the, the first stages of globalization. Now, it’s, it’s much more
intensified with different kinds of actors. There was a question about America’s place
in the world in the 60s, in the Cold War. There is a similar question about America’s
place in the world in the post-Cold War world, in the multi-polar world and stuff like that.
And so we’re, th-, the, the level of ferment about that question, of wh-, wh-, what’s the
right way to play it, what the right way for us to act in this world is, is different.
And technology fits into that story in part because of what you know you’ve decided before.
People are using it in part to reinforce their views or, or find tribes like theirs so that
they can be with a l-, be with the like-minded. But there are other things that are playing
into that story. I mean, Red America, and Blue America, is an artifact, too, of redistricting
policies and the, and the ease with which now it’s easy to figure out sort of who the
Republican voters in the district are and who the Democrats are and state legislatures
are really good at carving out safe republican and safe democratic districts. And so, there,
the incentive for people to talk to Independents and Moderates in the middle is sort of less
evident now because our, our political structures are that way, too. So there are, are, are, are a host of other,
larger social changes that fit in to this technology story. It’s just technology is
the most dramatic thing and it’s, and it’s implicated in a lot of this stuff. So, it’s,
that’s a, a mushy answer to a really serious question. And I, but we don’t know is, is,
is a lot of what, what is, where, where technology ends and where other sort of things take over.>>Nikolas: Ok–>>Lee: Yeah.>>Nikolas: so, we’re at the end of this and
we’re really happy you were born in New York because– [Lee laughs] you’ve gone through a lot– [Lee laughs] we really, it’s a good thing when you have
to break up stuff and we still have questions coming. We thank you for your excellent presentation
and–>>Lee: Thank you.>>Nikolas: and your really interesting talk.>>Lee: Thank you, thank you. [loud applause]>>Lee: Thank you.

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