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Customizing the Method

danaobservation4 Since our formative work with the Middletown Media Studies in 2003, our observational method has been used to record life activities and the use of different types of media. However, as we refine our understanding of the method and how it works, we also apply it to specific contexts and demographic groups to extend our research and increase our capabilities.
Specific Media Environments
We have successfully piloted projects focusing the method on specific media environments.

For example, Remotely Interested focused on prime-time TV watching. During this project, observers recorded the use of other media but were primarily concerned with what happened during TV viewing to impact exposure and attention to programming and advertising. Thus, the coding system for this project was much more detailed in the realm of TV-based activities and less specific about the use of other media (in this study, the presence of other media was noted but the type was not distinguished).

Both our pilot study and Video Consumer Mapping Study for the Nielsen-funded Council for Research Excellence maintain a primary interest in understanding video consumption, across platforms in the context of overall media use throughout participants’ days. This means that observers still capture the 15 different types of media and 17 different life activities but have a number of highly specific categories to record during observations.

Another example of research in a specific media environment is our media acceleration process, which in several projects has allowed us to explore how accelerating access to high tech devices impacts everyday routines and media behaviors.
Specialized or Defined Content
We can also tailor our method to focus on specific types of content consumed by participants. Projects of this nature have included proprietary studies of information delivered via PDAs and radio consumption focused on exposure to a specific radio station and the content offered.
Finely Tuned Populations
Our observational studies can be customized to research target audiences.

Our High School Media Too study successfully piloted the method researching a teenage population, exploring the logistical challenges (e.g., gaining permission of parents, gaining access to classrooms, etc.) and determining that it will be possible to conduct a similar study on a much larger scale.

Other studies planned for implementation in the future may focus on older populations (55+ years old), pregnant women, and even younger students.
Center for Media Design
Arts and Journalism Building, Room 205
Ball State University
Muncie, IN 47306

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. during the academic year, 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. during the summer
Phone: 765-285-0123
Fax: 765-285-0124
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