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Selecting, avoiding, disconnecting: a focus group study of people’s strategies for dealing with information abundance in the contexts of news, entertainment, and personal communication


Volk, Sophia Charlotte; Schulz, Anne; Blassnig, Sina; Marschlich, Sarah; Nguyen, Minh Hao; Strauss, Nadine (2024). Selecting, avoiding, disconnecting: a focus group study of people’s strategies for dealing with information abundance in the contexts of news, entertainment, and personal communication. Information, Communication and Society:1-20.

Abstract

Information abundance has become a defining characteristic of digital media environments. Today, people have to deal with a vast amount of news, entertainment and personal communication. This study investigates the strategies that people use to do so. Conceptually, we propose to understand information abundance as a macro-level phenomenon, i.e., an external state, which is neither positive nor negative per se. However, it may be experienced differently by individuals depending on what strategies they have to navigate abundance. Information abundance can be observed at the levels of content, sources, and devices as well as across the different media contexts of news, entertainment, or personal communication. Empirically, we conduct focus group discussions with 40 participants from Switzerland and examine what strategies people use to manage or withdraw from information abundance. The findings show that the strategies of selection, avoidance, and disconnection are applied similarly across the three media contexts, both temporarily and habitually, preventively and interventively, and are often used in tandem. Our findings also reveal that all strategies are used at the content, source, and device levels, which is important to consider because avoidance or disconnection from devices can inevitably affect media use more generally. The use of strategies seems to impact how individuals experience abundance, supporting previous research that avoidance and disconnection can mitigate information overload and enhance well-being. The study contributes to a better understanding of the multifaceted application of strategies as individual responses to the increase of information supply and the blurring boundaries between different media contexts.

Abstract

Information abundance has become a defining characteristic of digital media environments. Today, people have to deal with a vast amount of news, entertainment and personal communication. This study investigates the strategies that people use to do so. Conceptually, we propose to understand information abundance as a macro-level phenomenon, i.e., an external state, which is neither positive nor negative per se. However, it may be experienced differently by individuals depending on what strategies they have to navigate abundance. Information abundance can be observed at the levels of content, sources, and devices as well as across the different media contexts of news, entertainment, or personal communication. Empirically, we conduct focus group discussions with 40 participants from Switzerland and examine what strategies people use to manage or withdraw from information abundance. The findings show that the strategies of selection, avoidance, and disconnection are applied similarly across the three media contexts, both temporarily and habitually, preventively and interventively, and are often used in tandem. Our findings also reveal that all strategies are used at the content, source, and device levels, which is important to consider because avoidance or disconnection from devices can inevitably affect media use more generally. The use of strategies seems to impact how individuals experience abundance, supporting previous research that avoidance and disconnection can mitigate information overload and enhance well-being. The study contributes to a better understanding of the multifaceted application of strategies as individual responses to the increase of information supply and the blurring boundaries between different media contexts.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Communication and Media Research
Dewey Decimal Classification:070 News media, journalism & publishing
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Communication
Social Sciences & Humanities > Library and Information Sciences
Uncontrolled Keywords:Information abundance, information overload, avoidance, disconnection, digital media environment, focus groups
Language:English
Date:3 June 2024
Deposited On:10 Jun 2024 14:22
Last Modified:12 Jun 2024 06:18
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:1369-118X
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118x.2024.2358167
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)