Thinking about using the social web to do democratic things…..

New OXIS Data – yum yum

This weekend you’ll be pleased to know I have been reading the recently released update of the OXIS survey (which you can get hold of here – but large thanks to Tim Davies for posting me a copy!).  I have also been updating my Facts Glorious Facts page if you like that kind of thing so this post is really just a few highlights and observations from the report.

For those of you who haven’t come across it the Oxford Internet Survey is the UK answer to the Pew report and consists of a questionnaire sent to a weighted sample of 2057 people on the UK (response rate is just less that 50% which isn’t bad).  Its not huge but its an excellent summary of where we are as a country with respect to internet usage and as this is now the 5th year (its been running avery other year since 2003) it is now a good source of longitudinal data about internet habits.

The headline number of people that are online according to OXIS is around 73% of the population with household and individual access being almost the same.  Reasons for not going online are interesting however:

And reasons to stop using the internet are also revealing:

Next Generation – how star trek

One of the main findings of the report is the emergence of what the authors (William Dutton and Grant Blank) call next generation internet users.  They define these as

someone who accesses the internet from multiple locations and devices.  Specifically, we operationally define the next generation user as someone who uses at least two internet applications (out of four applications queried) on their mobile or who fits two or more of the following criteria:  they own a tablet, own a reader, own three or more computers.  By this definition 44.4% of internet users in Britain were next generation users

The interesting thing is that these are not just “The Young People” (have started capitalising this since turning 40) – there is a stronger correlation with income and employment – though students are a large part of this new group.  Given the fact that reasons for not using the internet are closely linked to the costs as well as the access to technology that is driving this next generation use then I for one will be watching very carefully to see whether or not increased market penetration of smart phones and cheaper tablets starts to change this picture.

Yet more content….

According to the report content creation online is a generally increasing activity with around 25% of internet users creating something (higher that the OFCOM estimates).  The graph below shows these increases:

But the next generation users are more likely to be doing this:

Overall the use of social networking sites has moved from a minority position in 2009 to a majority activity (60%) in 2011.  Importantly schooling is not important to the use of these sites – but as we saw earlier income is.

Government – meh

Overall the levels of participation with government and democracy indicated by the report are small – and though the next generation of users are more active this is as likely to correlate with the fact that they tend towards a higher income than specifically being linked to their next generation use – if indeed you can separate this at all.

Political efficacy is shown to be positively associated with internet use but there has been no significant increase in online political participation evidenced by the research desipte the 2010 election having been held since the last survey in 2009.

Civic participation is also not huge (NB they use a difference definition of civic to the one I use and are talking about participation in non-political associations rather than the wider desire to connect to your community with or without formal organisations).

Given the levels of disatisfaction with the political process and the results from for example the Hansard Audit these findings should not suprise us – though they should be of some concern.  It would be interesting to see what the results would be if the questions explored membership of online campaigning movements such as Avaaz or other online campaigns such as ‘Hugh’s Fish Fight” – are we really these low levels of participation or are we seeing them specifically with respect to the formal political process?

Internet use is settling down to be very very important

The report is detailed and I recommend having a read.  The entry point of the nature of your access as a way of codifying your relationship with the internet is a useful one and the next generation internet category is a good way of exploring the differences in internet use that we see.  I would like to see more exploration of which came first – the behaviours or the devices but we probably have to accept that they drive each other.

The nature of the digital divide is clearly changing and with respect to my work I think we need to be even more conscious than ever that the people we see creating content and demonstrating their political efficacy are a fairly specific group.

The good news is that if you can give people access then indications are that there are few barriers to them participating – but the question is whether or not enough people will get smart phones for Christmas in order to start changing this picture.

Overall the picture from the research is of internet use becoming more and more embedded – there is a lot of detail on this but I was struck particularly by this graph showing the effect on other media:

I am reading the brilliant “Amusing ourselves to death” at the moment and I must say that we have to ask whether or not the passive entertainment that the television has provided us is going to be a bit of a blip with respect to how we chose to spend our leisure time – ask me again in 2050.

Within this section there is some important stuff about levels of trust in different media and organizations (sorry government – last again here with trust levels being between 2.5-2.3 out of 5).

And one of the other interesting details was the fact that the desire to regulate the internet has reduced since 2009:

And that has to be good news as far as I concerned and probably a good place to close…

Addendum 24th October

This is a more in the way of a note to self hence the late addition.  Throughout this report the authors have spoken about respondents ‘using social networking sites’ – but the fact is that according to the OFCOM data this really means using Facebook for the vast majority of people.  It may not be the case for the content creators who make wider use of social media services (we have found it around 50:50 with the social media audits) but we need to be careful I think about whether or not we are seeing one successful service – Facebook – as opposed to a general trend.  My personal view is that we are seeing a general trend and that the next generation users are embedding the social web in their lives in lots of different ways but the overall growth may be less that these stats show as Facebook take up is masking other kinds of behaviours.

Mmmm….not sure….one to think about…

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