I always have mixed feelings about being on the same program as Lee Rainie from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. He's totally amazing, and I love listening to him. But I hate having to talk after him, since he's such a difficult act to follow...
Starts with a confession ('because it's Sunday') that his initial proposal to Pew didn't even mention libraries as potential users of the data--but they turned out to be the biggest consumer of their data. "The library-industrial complex is amazing to behold."
Talks about how Internet use changes communities of learners. Cites McLuhan, and every technology having its own "grammar." If that's the case, their research indicates that the grammar of the Internet seems to be to create and foster communities.
93% of American teenagers use the internet!
Most notable gaps are age (young people use it more), education (increases use), disabilities (lower use), and language preference (new surveys on Spanish-speaking people indicate much lower adoption). Race is becoming less of an issue, at least from a cultural standpoint--it's economic class that's more important.
A growing number of broadband users see the Internet as a place to "hang out." They also see the Internet as their most important source of news.
People have phones, but (surprise, surprise) the majority don't use all the features they have access to. Partly they're frustrated by the interface, but more often they just want phones to be phones. They have "feature fatigue." (from an HBR article)
Women want maps on their phones.
Pictures are becoming a critical part of conversation and communication. (Yes! I"ll be talking about this.)
Wirelessness is more important as a predictor of active use of the internet than even broadband access.
55% of 12-17yos have profiles on social networking sites. 55% are users. These are not exactly the same 55%! Some lurk but don't have profiles; some have profiles but don't spend much time using the sites.
Girls use the sites to support and reinforce existing social networks. Boys use it to "meet new friends." 2/3 of profile creators limit access to their profiles. They're not indifferent to privacy.
Five New Realities
1) There are more people in more communities thanks to the Internet. 84% of internet users belong to an online community, including communities that pre-dated the internet presence. You can find the groups more easily online. Internet use is a predictor of whether people have joined any kind of social group!
2) Many communities with heavy online communities are highly socially meaningful. They often have a "real life" component. Online communities are tremendous places to build online capital.
3) New kinds of communities afforded by the Internet. The newer breed is built around individuals themselves. For example, communities that emerge when someone falls ill. (Or, perhaps another example, the community that arose around Jim Gray's disappearance.) Communities around user-generated content. Around a blog post, aYouTube video, for example. We're not bowling alone.
4) Communities behave in different ways. Groups are much more on "high alert" status, responding more rapidly to new inputs. Quotes Gillmor "If someone knows something in one place, everyone who cares about that will know it soon enough." (I may have that quote wrong.) Talks about Howard's idea of "Smart Mobs." (Tells a compelling story about 30 kids being notified and arriving at the scene of an accident involving their friends--before the police got there. People customize information not just for a daily "me," but also for a daily "us". (Yes! Facebook news feeds, for example.) Librarians should think of themselves as nodes in these information networks.
5) People in groups tend to need other people. ("Who knew Barbra Streisand would be right?") People who said the internet was useful in major life changes--34% said the net put them in touch with people who offered information and advice, and 28% said it helped them find professional sources. The internet, for most people, was tool to find other people. IN a world of information abundance, social networks and other people matter more and more and more. So, action item for librarians--you need to be a visible node in the network.
In conclusion...the people libraries want to serve are changing the way they interact with each other, and the way they learn. They're more self-organizing and self-directed. They're better equipped to capture and disseminate information. They're more tied to group outreach and knowledge. They're more tied to group insight. More attuned to friend and foe, competitors and allies, through scanning their networks.