Ecological psychology and media consumption among young adults: A new framework

Alice Diana Cade Ferguson, University of Southern Mississippi

Abstract

The Pew Research Center (2010, March 1) identified three crucial "new metrics of news" (p. 2) that help to explain the appeal of new, interactive media forms among young adult news consumers. These metrics of Portability, Personalizability and Participation (Pew, 2010) highlight the rapid transformations in technology and user interests that have helped create a new manifestation of what McLuhan called an "age of anxiety" (1967/2001, pp. 8-9) in mass media industries and in mass communication education and scholarship. The purpose of this research is to investigate this very shift in how news is delivered and consumed, with particular attention to the preferences of college students for news that offers Pew's (2010, March 1) new metrics. Which facet of news best attracts college students' engagement? Do young adults' media choices depend mostly on the news content or channel, or mostly on the technology through which content is delivered? This research explores these questions with new theoretical tools, combining traditional uses and gratifications theory (Blumler & Katz, 1974) with concepts from ecological psychology (Gibson, 1979; Michaels & Carello, 1981). This examination asks whether users' preferences for Pew's (2010) new metrics differ, based on respondents' action goals, informational goals, or selected demographic characteristics.