Connectedness and disconnectedness to new and old media within different age groups
First Monday

Connectedness and disconnectedness to new and old media within different age groups by Joo-Young Jung



Abstract
Guided by diffusion of innovation theory, this study compares patterns of connectedness and disconnectedness to the Internet and traditional media within and across select age groups (20–39, 40–59, and 60 or over) by conducting a randomly sampled survey in Tokyo, Japan. The oldest age group fell behind younger age groups not only in regards to ownership and access, but also the scope and intensity of Internet connectedness. Within age groups, disparities in Internet connectedness was found in the oldest age group, while disparities in connecting to television, newspapers and radio was found in the youngest and middle age groups. Mass media connectedness was found to have a negative relationship with PC Internet connectedness in the oldest age group. Implications for the evolution of media connectedness and disconnectedness across different generations are discussed.

Contents

1. Introduction
2. Literature review and research questions
3. Research methods
4. Results
5. Discussion and conclusions

 


 

1. Introduction

How do people in different generations use new and old media differently? Many recent studies examined age differences in the use of the Internet (Lenhart, et al., 2010). However, not many studies compared the age differences in Internet use in relation to the use of other types of media. The current study compares three age groups with regard to their access to and use of PC and mobile Internet in relation to their use of television, radio, and newspapers. In addition to the between-age group comparisons, the effects of socioeconomic status and gender on the level of connectedness to different media forms are analyzed within each age group in order to understand different patterns of connectedness. The multi-media approach, as opposed to uni-medium approach, is likely to help us understand the current patterns of digital divide as it is contextualized in the wider communication environment. The study is based on randomly sampled data from a survey research conducted in Tokyo, Japan.

 

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2. Literature review and research questions

2.1. Diffusion of innovation theory

We have observed the rise and fall of media and communication technologies both in history and in our time (Crowley and Heyer, 2011). The process in which a new communication technology is adopted and disseminated is well theorized and documented by diffusion of innovation research (Rice, 2009; Rogers, 1983). Rogers (1983) define diffusion as “the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system” [1]. Diffusion of innovation approach not only examines the initial period of an adoption of a technology but also how a technology is disseminated to different social groups. For example, one of the early studies of diffusion of innovation theory examined the adoption and use of “Green Thumb,” an agricultural information technology (Rogers, 1983). Case and his colleagues (cited in Rogers, 1983) found that socioeconomic status did not affect the access or adoption stage of the technology, but affected the degree of use of the technology.

Rogers proposed five innovation-decision stages (knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation, and confirmation) to describe the process in which a technology or idea is adopted and implemented by individuals (Rogers, 1983). The confirmation stage, which is the last stage, includes dissonance and discontinuance processes. Dissonance refers to change in individuals’ motivations for using particular technologies, and discontinuance indicates when individuals stop using particular technologies. Discontinuance can happen due to a replacement of an existing technology with a new one or due to dissatisfaction with the technology even when there is no alternative (Rogers, 1983). Rogers found that those who are late adopters of certain technology and those who have used the technology for a shorter period of time are more likely to discontinue using the technology than their counterparts.

Rogers’ conceptualization of adoption and discontinuance can be applied to understanding the ways in which individuals adopt and disadopt different communication technologies. People in different age groups have developed relationships with the mass media and the Internet based on the communication environment unique to each generation. Adams (2002) proposed a set of rules governing technology:

“1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re 15 and 35 is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things.”

The media that you grew up with shape your communication ecology, which is then carried on throughout your life. The first hypothesis is based on the diffusion of innovation theory that those who have used certain technology shorter are more likely to decrease and discontinue using the technology (Rogers, 1983). The theory can be applied to different age groups in which younger people have spent less time with television, radio and newspapers compared to the older.

H1: There are more disconnectors of mass media in the younger age group.

2.2. Internet connectedness among different age groups

2.2.1. Access difference

Since the advent of the Internet, age has been identified as a strong factor that influences people’s Internet access. Large-scale studies such as Pew Internet studies (e.g., Lenhart, 2000) or U.S. Department of Commerce (1999, 1998) studies reported that older age groups are far less likely to have access to the Internet compared to younger age groups. The age gap in access to the Internet continues to be confirmed in more recent studies. For example, Middleton and Sorensen’s (2005) study in Canada reveals that households with heads who are 55 or older have significantly lower Internet adoption rates than households with heads who are younger than 55.

The age gap is particularly prominent in Japan. Japan generally has a high technology diffusion rate and therefore the access gap across income and education groups are narrower than many other countries (World Internet Project, 2012). Yet, the age gap in using technologies has been noticeable. Ishii (2004) reports that the Gini coefficients for indicating the inequality in Internet access in Japan is the largest for age followed by education and income. He emphasizes that the age gap is widening due to the rapid spread of mobile Internet among the younger generations.

2.2.2. Use difference

In addition to the gap in access, older and younger age groups differ in the ways in which they use the Internet. Studies have reported that older age groups lag in skills (Hargittai, 2002), types of Internet activities (Loges and Jung, 2001; Pan, et al., 2011) and channels of connection (Nakano and Watanabe, 2009). Van Deursen and his colleagues found that age has different effects on medium-related and content-related skills (van Deursen, et al., 2010). Younger generations performed better on medium-related skills defined by operation and navigation related skills. On the other hand, older generations performed better for content-related skills such as information search and personal benefit obtainments.

Pan and his colleagues (2011) examined various factors that influence Internet use by analyzing data collected from a survey conducted in Shanghai, China. They found that younger people are more likely to use the Internet for browsing news, entertainment and social networking purposes than their counterpart. Based on large-scale survey data, Nakano and Watanabe (2009) found that people in their 20s spend the most time on mobile emails while those over the age of 30 tend to spend more time on PC Web browsing and PC e-mail. Loges and Jung (2001) found that older people pursue narrower scope of activities online even though they place the Internet to be as central to their lives as younger people do. Kim and his colleagues (2004) reported that after the September 11 terrorist attack in 2001, the Internet played central role for younger people to cope with the situation, while the majority of older people decreased their use of the Internet and relied heavily on traditional mass media.

2.2.3. Mobile Internet

Until the diffusion of smart phones, mobile Internet has not been widely adopted in most countries, with the exception of Japan and several northern European countries. Even in Japan, activities on mobile Internet had been mostly limited to e-mail and simple information gathering, such as weather or traffic information (Ishii, 2003; Jung, 2009). With the introduction of smart phones, Internet use via mobile phones increased drastically. Despite the increased use of mobile Internet, the diffusion has been uneven. Pew Internet and American Life Project (Lenhart, et al., 2010) reports that 55 percent of young adults (18–29) go online by a mobile device, while 30 percent of those 30 or over do so. The Pew report also notes that male and those with higher income and education levels are more likely to go online with wireless connections than their counterparts. Jung (2009) reported that Japanese seniors have a narrower scope of mobile Internet use compared to younger people. As mobile platforms become more common ways to access online, the disparities in access to and use of mobile Internet should be taken into consideration (Wei, 2013).

In the current study, the intensity of Internet use and the scope of Internet activities are used as indicators of people’s Internet connectedness. The concept of connectedness denotes a relationship an individual forms with a media form (Jung, et al., 2001). It implies a degree of closeness and centrality of a certain media form for an individual. The intensity of Internet use indicates the strength of connection to the Internet. The scope of activities indicates the breadth of Internet activities in which an individual is capable of engaging (Jung, 2008; Wei, 2012). Whether the individual regularly engages in the activities or not, the experience of having engaged in certain activity is likely to remain as important connections which can be utilized and activated when the need arises.

Research question 1: How do people’s Internet connectedness differ among the three age groups?

2.3. Digital divide within different age groups

How do the digital divide patterns differ within different age groups? With regard to the digital divide by income, education and gender, do the older, middle and younger age groups exhibit different patterns? Reisdorf (2011) conducted a study on Internet users and non-users in Britain and Sweden. Reisdorf found that the non-users in the age group of 25–55 were likely to be from the lower income group, unemployed and single. In the 55 or older age group, most non-users were retired and did not live with children. Hargittai and Walejko (2008) examined digital divide among a young generation in the United States. They found that those whose parents have higher educational level were more likely to engage in creative activities on the Internet. Gender was also a significant factor: male students were more likely to create music and film/video contents while female students were more likely to create poetry/fiction. Mussinelli (2009) conducted a research in Italy and found that women tend to engage in communication and social activities while men engage more on games and technological aspects of the Internet.

Despite the significant interest in digital divide patterns, few studies have compared the different patterns of digital divide in different age groups. The current study proposes the following research question:

Research question 2: Are there different patterns of digital divide with regard to income, education and gender within different age groups?

2.4. Age and media connectedness

As our media environment diversifies, how do our connections to traditional mass media change? As people adjust to the changing media environment, people from different media generations are likely to negotiate their connections to traditional media, such as newspapers, radio and television, differently. NHK Cultural Research Center’s (NHK Hoso Bunka Kenkyujo, 2011) nation-wide citizen time survey provides a comprehensive view of Japanese time spent with television, radio and newspapers. Over 80 percent of all age groups in Japan watch television during the weekday, but the time spent per day watching television differs by age: those in their 20s and 30s spend about two hours while those in their 60s and older spend more than four hours a day. Radio listening is low overall, but it varies by age as well: ranging from four percent among those in their 20s to 20 percent among those in their 60s. Time spent on radio among the listeners varies from five minutes per day among those in their 20s to 36 minutes per day among those in their 60s. Newspaper reading also shows drastic differences among the age groups: 14 percent of those who are in their 20s read newspaper daily, 24 percent in their 30s, 40–47 percent in their 40s–50s, and 67 percent in their 60s.

Mares and Sun (2010) examined age differences in television content preferences. They found that younger viewers prefer situation comedies while older viewers prioritize news programming. Nakano and Watanabe (2009) report that people spent a great deal of time with television in all age groups. However, the second medium that they spent the most time differed by age groups. For those in their 20s, e-mail ranked the second, for those in their 30s, Web browsing (male) and e-mail (female) ranked the second, and for those in their 40s and older, print newspapers ranked second. That study shows increasing centrality of the Internet among the younger generation while the older generation maintained connections to traditional media. Several studies examined new ways of listening to radio, expanding channels from terrestrial radio to Internet and satellite radio (Albarran, et al., 2007; Baker, 2010; McEwan, 2010). Albarran, et al. (2007) found that young people do not listen to radio for music alone due to other available options. They would mainly listen to radio in specific situations, such as driving or as a source of news and information.

Shehata and Strömbäck (2011) compared 16 different nations in Europe and found that the different levels of “newspaper-centrism” in national environments influence the degree of gap in newspaper readership between different socioeconomic groups. In countries that have high newspaper-centrism, the gap between high and low educational groups with regard to the newspaper reading was narrower than countries with low newspaper-centrism. Wei and Hindman (2011) compared new and old media with regard to the degree of gap between higher and lower educational levels. They found that the knowledge gap between higher and lower educational levels was more prominent in the information use on the Internet compared to that in traditional media.

Although several studies examined different use of television, radio and newspapers in different age groups, very few studies conducted research on the socioeconomic and gender differences within each age group with regard to their use of media. The current study divides survey respondents into three age groups (20–39; 40–59; 60 or over) in order to examine different patterns of connectedness and disconnectedness to media in different age groups; see the section on research methods for further details. Research question 3 inquires about different patterns of disparities in connecting to traditional media within each age group:

Research question 3: Do disparity patterns of people’s connectedness to traditional media differ in different age groups?

2.5. Mass media connectedness and Internet connectedness

What is the relationship between connectedness to the mass media and the Internet? Whether new media would displace incumbent media has been a topic of academic and public interest whenever a new medium was introduced to society (Marvin, 1988). As mentioned earlier, diffusion of innovation theory includes discontinuance as part of diffusion process. Rogers (1983) states that the discontinuation process can take place in a reverse s-curve pattern, with a slow decline at the beginning, followed by a steep drop. Newell and his colleagues (2014) analyzed discontinuance patterns of past technologies, including telegrams, afternoon newspapers, and VHS. They found that decline of these technologies largely followed the reverse s-curve pattern.

As the Internet matured, studies have examined the influence and implication of the Internet for people’s mass media use. Study results are not consistent — largely divided between displacement and complementary theses. While a group of studies derived results that support time displacement or functional displacement theses (De Waal and Schoenbach, 2010; Lee and Leung, 2008; Nie, et al., 2002; Peng and Zhu, 2011), other studies either did not find displacement phenomenon (van der Wurff, 2011) or found complementary relationships (Dutta-Bergman, 2004; Okazaki and Hirose, 2009). Given the mixed results with regard to the relationship between Internet and mass media use, the following research question is proposed.

Research question 4: What is the relationship between mass media connectedness and Internet connectedness?

 

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3. Research methods

The participants in this study consist of 544 randomly selected respondents from Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan. Bunkyo-ku is a district in central Tokyo with about 193,100 residents and 104,160 households. A survey research firm administered the survey by employing a systematic neighborhood sampling method. First, systematic sampling of neighborhoods was conducted on the basis of an address list obtained from the Bunkyo-ku municipal government to identify 60 census blocks in Bunkyo-ku. Second, 50 households were randomly selected in each census block and the survey questionnaire was inserted in each household’s mailbox along with a return envelope at the beginning of July 2011. In total, 3,000 questionnaires were distributed, and 544 were returned by mail within one month (response rate: 18.1 percent). The response rate is within the range of response rate for a typical mail-out survey (5–40 percent) (Wimmer and Dominick, 2006).

3.1. Measures

Age was based on simply asking “how old are you?” and 11 age categories from 20 to 70 and over were provided (e.g., 20–24, 25–29, 30–34, etc.). The median age category is 50–54. In order to compare media connectedness in different age groups, three age groups were derived: 20–39 (n = 159, 29.3 percent), 40–59 (n = 174, 32.1 percent) and 60 and over (n = 209, 38.6 percent). The three age categories are both data driven and also by generational division. The oldest age group (60 and over) is the generation born on or before 1950. This generation has either experienced the World War II or has been affected by the aftermath of Japan’s defeat in the war. With regard to the evolution of media, this generation is likely to have experienced the diffusion of television into their lives. Television was introduced in the early 1950s and was widely spread in the early 1960s in Japan (Tipton, 2008). This generation saw the transition from radio as a central medium in the household to television. The second generation (40–59) is so called post-war generation who experienced the growth of Japan’s economy from 1960s to 1980s (Sakurai, 2004). Born between 1952 and 1971, this generation grew up with television and experienced the advent of personal computers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The third age group (20–39) is described as those who were born during Japan’s economic prosperity (Kotani, 2003). This generation grew up with television, computers and portable gadgets, including portable music players, beepers and mobile phones. The distributional breakdown based on the data and the generational distinctions derive the three age groups to examine whether patterns of connectedness and disconnectedness to new and old media differ in the three age groups.

Scope of Internet connectedness was measured by the scope of participation in online activities. Respondents were asked whether they have used any of the 14 online activities provided in the questionnaire: e-mail, chat/instant messaging, obtain information (traffic, weather), read news, check local/community information (e.g., homepage of the local government), social media (Mixi, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), gaming, work-related activities, listen to/download music, watch TV/movies/videos, buy/sell products, maintain a homepage/blog, visit others’ homepages/blogs, and use Internet phone services (Skype, etc.). Respondents were asked about their participation in each of these activities via personal computers and mobile phones separately in a “yes-or-no” format. The scope of PC Internet activities and the scope of mobile Internet activities were derived respectively by summing respondents’ scores (yes = 1, no = 0) for the 14 activities (i.e., 14 activities each for personal computers and mobile phones). Total scores for each scope variable range from 0 to 14 (PC Internet scope: M = 7.35, SD = 3.89; Mobile Internet scope: M = 5.00, SD = 3.41).

Intensity of Internet connectedness was operationalized as frequency of connecting to the Internet via PCs and mobile phones. To questions, “How often do you use PC Internet/mobile Internet?”, four categories were provided: do not use at all (PC: 20 percent, mobile: 39.1 percent); use from time to time (PC: 9.6 percent, mobile: 19.4 percent); use several times a week (PC: 12.1 percent, mobile: 9.2 percent); use everyday (PC: 58.4 percent, mobile: 32.3 percent).

Internet connectedness variables for PCs and mobile phones were created by combining scope and intensity of Internet connectedness. For each of PC and mobile Internet connectedness, z-scores for scope and intensity were derived and the two scores were combined to create PC Internet connectedness and mobile Internet connectedness variables.

Connectedness to television, newspapers and radio by asking, “How much time do you spend per day watching television, reading newspapers and listening to radio?” Six categories were provided for each medium: do not watch/read/listen at all; less than 30 minutes; 30 minutes–less than 1 hour; 1 hour–less than 2 hours; 2 hours–less than 3 hours; 3 hours or more. The median category for each medium is: 2 hours–less than 3 hours for television viewing, 30 minutes–less than 1 hour for newspaper reading, and do not listen at all for radio.

Mass media connectedness was measured by combining television, newspapers, and radio connectedness variables. Values for each type of media are added to create the mass media connectedness variable. The variable ranges from 0 to 10 (M = 5.03, SD = 2.05).

Socioeconomic status was analyzed by assessing respondents’ income and educational levels. Participants were asked about their household income in the previous year; 11 categories were provided in Japanese yen, from less than two million yen to more than 20 million yen. Average household income is 5–7 million yen. Respondents were also asked about their educational level; five categories were provided: elementary/middle school graduate, high school graduate, technical school graduate, college graduate, and graduate school. The average respondent was a college graduate. Male gender was coded as 1, and female gender was coded as 0; 57 percent of the respondents were female. In each age group, the average income is 5–7 million yen in the 20–39 group, 7–9 million yen in the 40–59 group, and 3–4 million yen in the 60 and older group. The median educational levels are university graduates in all three age groups with 67.3 percent in the youngest age group, 69.9 percent in the middle group and 50 percent in the oldest group belonging to the median educational category. The proportion of females in each age group is 62.9 percent in 20–39, 60.3 percent in 40–59, and 49.8 percent in 60 and older group.

 

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4. Results

Table 1 displays a correlation matrix of major variables included in this study. Correlations between age and two Internet connectedness variables are all over .50 supporting the framework of the present study to examine media connectedness within and across age groups.

 

Zero-order correlations of major variables

 

4.1. More disconnectors of mass media in the younger age group (H1)

As displayed in Figure 1, 11.3 percent in the youngest age group do not watch television at all, compared to 1.7 percent on the middle and 1.5 percent in the oldest age group. With regard to newspapers, 47.2 percent of the youngest age group responded that they do not read newspapers at all, compared to 19.5 percent and 6.3 percent in middle and oldest age groups. Disconnectedness to the radio is higher overall, with 69.2 percent in the 20–39 age category, 72.3 percent in the middle age and 56.5 percent in the 60 and older age group. Chi-square tests indicate that the difference in the number of disconnectors across the age groups are significant for all three types of media (Newspaper: χ2 (df = 2) = 99.210, p < .001; TV: χ2 (df = 2) = 23.995, p < .001; Radio: χ2 (df = 2) = 16.980, p < .001) and younger generations are more likely to be disconnected from the mass media. Hypothesis 1 was supported.

 

Mass media disconnectors in different age groups
 
Figure 1: Mass media disconnectors in different age groups (percentage).

 

4.2. Internet connectedness among different age groups (RQ1)

Connectedness to the Internet and mobile phones is measured by device ownership, Internet use, scope of Internet connectedness and intensity of Internet connectedness for PC and mobile Internet. Figure 2 shows ownership and use in different age groups. Overall, the older age group has the lowest ownership and use of personal computers and mobile phones. With regard to the ownership of PC and mobile phones, 20–39 and 40–59 age groups show 100 percent ownership of mobile phones and over 95 percent ownership of PCs at home, compared to 81.5 percent mobile ownership and 69.3 percent PC ownership at home in 60 and older age group. A wider gap is found in the usage. With regard to PC Internet use, the usage rate is high for both youngest and middle age groups (96.9 percent and 95.9 percent, respectively) while it drops by over 40 percent in the oldest group (53.3 percent). For mobile Internet use, a steep decline in the usage rate from younger to older age group is found. While 86.9 percent of the youngest group use the Internet via mobile phones, the rate drops to 69.9 percent in the middle age group and drops significantly to 27.3 percent in the oldest group. Chi-square tests indicate that all four categories of ownership and use differences are significant (Own PC: χ2 (df = 2) = 78.14, p < .001; Own a mobile phone: χ2 (df = 2) = 66.42, p < .001; Use PC Internet: χ2 (df = 2) = 144.98, p < .001; Use mobile Internet: χ2 (df = 2) = 125.99, p < .001).

 

Ownership and use of PC and mobile devices and Internet
 
Figure 2: Ownership and use of PC and mobile devices and Internet (percentage).

 

The intensity and scope of Internet connectedness in different age groups also demonstrate sharp differences (Table 2): as age gets older, the intensity declines and the scope narrows. Mean differences of intensity and scope of PC and mobile Internet connectedness are all statistically significant according to analysis of variance tests (Table 2). The overall result of Internet connectedness indicates that older generations lag behind the youngest generation in ownership, use, intensity and scope of Internet connectedness for both PCs and mobile phones.

 

Analysis of variance (ANOVA) of intensity and scope of Internet connectedness

 

4.3. Digital divides within different age groups (RQ2)

In order to examine whether digital divide patterns differ in different age group, Internet connectedness was regressed on income, education, and gender in each of the three age groups (Table 3). In the youngest (20–39) age group, none of the independent variables had a significant effect on PC and mobile Internet connectedness, and the overall F-tests were not significant. On the other hand, income had significant effects on PC Internet connectedness (b = .22, p < .01) in the middle age group and on both PC (b = .31, p < .01) and mobile Internet connectedness (b = .26, p < .01) in the oldest age group. While education did not have any effect on Internet connectedness, males were more likely to have high PC (b = .20, p < .05) and mobile Internet connectedness (b = .19, p < .05) scores in the middle age group and high PC Internet connectedness (b = .16, p < .05) in the oldest age group. Income, education, and gender account for 22.5 percent of PC Internet connectedness in the older age group.

 

Multiple regression analysis of the effect of income, education and gender on PC and mobile Internet connectedness within each age group

 

4.4. Connectedness to traditional media (RQ3)

The effect of income, education and gender on time spent with television, newspapers and radio was tested employing multiple regression analysis. The results (Table 4) show different patterns of disparities in different age groups. In the youngest age group, education (b = -.257, p < .01) has a negative effect on TV connectedness, and income (b = .304, p < .01) and gender (male) (b = .210, p < .05) has positive effects on newspaper connectedness. In the middle age group, gender (male) (b = -.171, p < .05) has a negative effect on TV connectedness, income has a positive effect on newspaper connectedness (b = .166, p < .05), and education has a negative effect on radio connectedness (b = -.266, p < .01). None of the socioeconomic and gender variables had significant effects on the traditional media in the oldest age group.

 

Multiple regression analysis of the effect of income, education and gender on time spent with television, newspapers and radio

 

4.5. Mass media connectedness and Internet connectedness (RQ4)

Research question 4 concerns the relationship between people’s connectedness to the mass media and the Internet. Partial correlation analyses were employed to test the relationship in which income, education, and gender were controlled. Partial correlations between mass media connectedness and PC (r = -.29, p < .01) and mobile (r = -.23, p < .01) Internet connectedness are negative and significant for the overall sample. The more connected to the mass media, the less intensive and wider people’s Internet connectedness is for both PCs and mobile phones. When the partial correlation is conducted in each age group, mass media connectedness had a negative partial correlation with PC Internet connectedness only in the oldest age group (r = -.23, p < .01), but not significant in other age groups. None of the relationship between mass media connectedness and mobile Internet connectedness was significant.

 

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5. Discussion and conclusions

This study examined age as a factor that influences people’s connectedness to the Internet and traditional media. Supporting a thesis of diffusion of innovation theory, the youngest age group was significantly more likely to be disconnected from the mass media than other age groups. In addition, the result confirms general understanding of age disparity that those who are 60 or older have lower access to and use of PC and mobile Internet than younger people. Not only the access but the intensity and scope of Internet connectedness differed by age groups: the youngest age group engaged in a more intensive and wider scope of activities than the middle and oldest age groups. Patterns of digital divide differed as well: while digital divide in terms of income, education, and age was not found in the youngest age group, income and gender disparities were found in the older age groups. On the other hand, with regard to people’s connectedness to the mass media, disparities were found in younger age groups: TV viewing was associated with lower education, and newspaper readership was associated with higher income and being a male. In the middle age group, TV was associated with being a female, newspapers with higher income, and radio with lower education. That is, more variations in Internet connectedness are found in the oldest age group, while more variations in mass media connectedness are found in the younger age groups. Finally, the study indicates that a negative relationship between mass media connectedness and PC Internet connectedness was found in the oldest age group.

5.1. Implications of the results

This study confirmed Internet and mobile phone access and use divide between different age groups. While the ownership of PCs and mobile phones were significantly different across age groups, disparities were more prominent for Internet use. Proportions of PC Internet users and mobile Internet users in the oldest age group were only about a half and one-third, respectively, of the youngest age group (Figure 2). The result is different from past studies that saw the potential of mobile Internet to lower the barrier to Internet use due to cheaper device costs (e.g., Akiyoshi and Ono, 2008). Even though Japan has a high mobile Internet penetration rate, the actual usage varies in different age groups with usage by the older age groups significantly behind the younger group. The significant usage gap should be acknowledged by political, commercial and civic sectors as more and more information and services go online.

Beyond using or not using the Internet, the study found disparities in the ways in which people in different age groups connect to the Internet. Younger age groups were more likely to engage in wider variety of online activities, and were using the Internet more frequently than older age groups. The result implies that beyond owning a PC or mobile phone or having access to the Internet, a second-level of digital divide (Hargittai, 2002) exists across age group. The result has important policy and educational implications. Merely purchasing an Internet-enabled mobile phone and gaining access to the Internet is not likely to automatically lead to narrowing digital divide. Past studies have found that those who are more privileged in terms in income, education, age, gender and ethnicity are more likely to use the Internet in diverse, intense and central ways than the less privileged (Jung, et al., 2001). The sharp differences in the scope and intensity of Internet connectedness among age groups serve as important evidence that the digital divide is not closed even in a highly developed and connected society like Japan. The result also has implications for developing countries where many people gain access to the Internet via mobile phones due to their cheaper device and Internet access fees. Having access to the Internet does not guarantee that the citizens in the developing countries are utilizing the Internet at a similar scope and intensity as those in more developed countries. Educational and intervention programs are essential to narrow the second-level digital divide as more and more people gain access to the Internet.

With regard to the effects of income, education and gender on the scope and intensity of PC and mobile Internet connectedness, significant disparities were found only in the middle and oldest age groups but not in the youngest age group. The result implies that the Internet occupies a central position in the young generation’s communication ecology that the connectedness is not influenced by income, education or gender factors. There may be other factors that explain the different Internet connectedness among the young generation, such as Internet skills, experience, family environment that should be explored in future studies (Livingstone and Helsper, 2007). On the other hand, in older age groups, those who have higher income and males are more likely to have richer Internet experience than their counterparts, demonstrating that the diffusion of the Internet is still ongoing and that the disparity patterns follow social divisions of income and gender.

On the other hand, the present research reveals an opposite pattern of disparities in younger and older age groups for connections to traditional media: while the socioeconomic disparity in Internet scope was found among the senior age group, the disparities in connecting to traditional media were found among the younger age groups. The difference among different age groups indicates a transformation of communication ecologies in different generations. In the oldest age group, television, radio and newspapers have saturated in the diffusion curve and the connections do not differ by socioeconomic and demographic categories. In the youngest and middle-aged groups, income is a significant factor for newspaper readership. This result is consistent with past studies that found income gap in newspaper readership (e.g., Burgoon and Burgoon, 1980; Elvestad and Blekesaune, 2008). While those with higher income are more likely to read newspapers, those with lower educational levels were more likely to watch television in the youngest age group and more likely to listen to radio in the middle age group. While television is still central in people aged 40–59, the result reveals that radio is starting to lose its central position. People with higher education may be transferring to newer media, such as the Internet. In the youngest age group, the same analysis can apply to television: as television loses its central position (Lee and Leung, 2008), the more educated people may be decreasing their connectedness to television and increasing their connectedness to newer media. The diffusion of innovation perspective characterizes early adopters as consisting of those with higher income and education levels compared to the late adopters (Rogers, 1983), which is reflected in the present study. The result of disparities in Internet connectedness and mass media use indicate that the mass media still occupy central positions in the oldest generation, while they are losing ground in the younger age groups. On the other hand, the Internet occupies a central position in the youngest age group. The study result demonstrates changing landscape of disparities in connecting to new and old media in different age groups.

Finally, this study found a negative relationship between mass media connectedness and PC Internet connectedness only in the oldest age group. Although not a direct evidence of media displacement, the result suggests that those who connect to the Internet in a broader and more intense way may be decreasing their time spent with the mass media. In younger age groups, such competing relationship was not found, indicating that higher Internet connectedness is not associated with less time spent on the mass media. Several past studies have indicated that in multimedia age where people have many choices of media in their everyday life, time displacement thesis may not be an accurate measure to understand people’s use of diverse media (Dutta-Bergman, 2004; Jung, et al., 2001). One of the criteria of media literacy in the current era is to be able to navigate across different types of media to achieve goals or needs. Jenkins (2007) referred to this capacity as “transmedia navigation,” the ability to navigate through different types of media to search and synthesize information necessary for their goals. The result that mass media and Internet connectedness did not have a significant association in the younger age group may be an indicator that the relation between different types of media goes beyond linear time analysis. Future studies should employ measures of goal-directed and motivation-directed media connections in order to understand how people manage different types of media available in their everyday life.

5.2. Limitations and future implications

Several limitations exist in this study. First, the division of the three age groups in the study involved groupings ,which may not reflect a true division in generations. It is difficult to construct a theoretical basis to divide different age groups. For the purpose of the current study to compare patterns of connectedness and disconnectedness in different age groups, however, the researcher believed that limitations involved in dividing total respondents into three age groups were offset by the implications of the study results for media connectedness and digital divide research. Alternative approaches to studying media connectedness across different age groups should be developed in future research to better understand different patterns of connectedness and disconnectedness in different generations. Second, the data were gathered in one district in Tokyo and thus limits the generalizability of the result to other places. Bunkyo-ku’s population breakdown according to age is similar to the average of Tokyo and income level is slightly higher than the average (National Tax Agency Japan, n.d.). Third, the response rate for the postal survey was 18.1 percent. Although it is within the range of response rate for a typical mail-out survey (5–40 percent) (Wimmer and Dominick, 2006), the relatively low response rate may involve non-response bias. Accordingly, the results should be interpreted with caution. The present study also has limitations that accompany cross-sectional surveys — causal relationships between the mass media and the Internet could not be claimed.

Despite the limitations, the present study heightens the understanding of Internet connectedness and digital divide in different age groups in comparison to people’s connections to the mass media. Continuation of such studies in the future will demonstrate the pattern of evolving media environment over generations. When the emergence and decline of new and old media are considered together, we are in a better position to understand the dynamic change of individuals’ communication ecology. End of article

 

About the author

Joo-Young Jung (Ph.D., University of Southern California) is a Senior Associate Professor in the Department of Media, Communication and Culture at International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan. Her research interests include social implications of new communication technologies in the changing communication environment. Her research has been published in communication journals and books such as Communication Research, New Media & Society, Political Communication and the Oxford Handbook of Information and Communication Technologies.
E-mail: jungjy [at] icu [dot] ac [dot] jp

 

Acknowledgments

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Regional Conference of International Communication Association, 8–10 November 2013, Shanghai, China.

 

Note

1. Rogers, 1983, p. 5.

 

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Editorial history

Received 19 November 2015; accepted 25 July 2016.


Copyright © 2016, First Monday.
Copyright © 2016, Joo-Young Jung.

Connectedness and disconnectedness to new and old media within different age groups
by Joo-Young Jung.
First Monday, Volume 21, Number 8 - 1 August 2016
http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/6330/5605
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v21i8.6330





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