Deprived of media, college students describe ordeal

A research team at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication put 48 college students on a “complete and extended media fast for 48 hours.” More cruelly, it required them to write “multiple-page essays” about their experiences.

Among the reactions, shared in a press release about the study, called “Turn Off Everything: The Challenges and Consequences of Going on a Complete and Extended Media Fast”:

“I felt immensely powerless and almost naked because I couldn’t use any media.”

“With no books, magazines, movies, newspapers, radio or Internet I felt like half a person.”

“Without the media, I was forced to talk with people directly more often…. Word of mouth and face-to-face dialogue became much more important, given that I had no real sources to consult anymore.”

The j-school’s Dr. Harsha Gangadharbatla oversaw the study with grad students Darshan Sawant and Lauren Bratslavsky.

But wait! Don’t cancel any planned trips to The Hague, guys; humanity may yet forgive your crimes: “I realized there were so many more things to do then just sit on my ass and be consumed by the media,” one wrote.

In 2010, the University of Maryland’s Phillip Merrill College of Journalism put 200 students on a 24-hour fast. “I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening,” one student wrote.

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  • http://twitter.com/LauraLeeAuthor Laura Lee

    I could go without electronic media for a couple of days, but no books? Life would have no meaning!

  • http://twitter.com/NewsLiteracy Dean Miller

    “Blackout” is the first assignment in the standard News Literacy course developed at Stony Brook by Howard Schneider in 2006.

    Done correctly, it sets the table for an entire semester of thinking and writing about media habits. More significantly, it shows the gaping hole in most of the survey research on news consumption by under-21s. Clark, Martire and Bartolomeo’s late 1990s regression analysis of circulation slides had the big picture right (and editors ignored it). But almost every analyst doesn’t know what you now know from running a Blackout: students consume way more news than they think they do. Worst of all, they let others pick it for them.

    Here’s the Blackout, described in full:http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2010/0114/Want-better-journalism-Boost-news-literacy

  • http://twitter.com/NewsLiteracy Dean Miller

    “Blackout” is the first assignment in the standard News Literacy course developed at Stony Brook by Howard Schneider in 2006.

    Done correctly, it sets the table for an entire semester of thinking and writing about media habits. More significantly, it shows the gaping hole in most of the survey research on news consumption by under-21s. Clark, Martire and Bartolomeo’s late 1990s regression analysis of circulation slides had the big picture right (and editors ignored it). But almost every analyst doesn’t know what you now know from running a Blackout: students consume way more news than they think they do. Worst of all, they let others pick it for them.

    Here’s the Blackout, described in full:http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2010/0114/Want-better-journalism-Boost-news-literacy

  • Doug Tewksbury

    I actually have my students do this, too (I call it an ‘Information Vacation’) in a Media Literacy course. The most surprising thing every semester? They always comment on how they thought that they were going to log back on and find that there was so much that they missed in email/messaging/social media, but they find that nothing all that interesting happened, and most of their email/texts were not important – people usually comment on how trivial most of our time spent online is. They always seem to appreciate the exercise.