DIGSSCORE Tuesday seminar

Felicia Loecherbach: Mapping the mobile news diet – a lab-based approach to study news consumption

Felicia Loecherbach, from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, will present a study on news consumption.

The shift to online and especially mobile news consumption has led to the creation of unprecedented amounts of data on individual news consumption behavior. In theory, we can now know which respondents viewed (and liked, shared, and commented on) which news articles at which time. This allows a much more fine-grained study of media effects compared to the ‘classical’ method of linking media content to (panel) survey data. A more precise measurement of news exposure allows us to investigate certain features of an individual’s online (and especially mobile) news diet and it’s connection to variables connected to political attitudes and knowledge. However, collecting data from participants’ phones is not only technically challenging but also related to major ethical questions (especially after major data breach scandals in the past), calling for new approaches to collect this data in a responsible way. 

Our Lab approach “Mapping the mobile news diet” (MAPMOP) explores and evaluates the possibility of combining synced browsing histories, news app data, and social media take-out data (sometimes referred to as GDPR-requests) to approximate people’s mobile news exposure. We have developed a workflow (and necessary software scripts) to extract such information from mobile phones. In contrast to tracking approaches, our approach is fully based on “data donations”: We do not collect any data on the background, but respondents actively donate already existing data (that is present on their devices or at a service provider they use). Because of our lab-based approach, the respondents are physically sitting next to us and therefore have full control about the process of collecting, extracting, and processing their data; in particular, they can exclude any possibly sensitive part of the data before donating it. As an additional benefit, our approach gives participants immediate insight into their news consumption behavior, as well as which data which companies store about them. This can be used to enhance their media literacy.

A light lunch will be served.