Interview with the Authors: Kyong Eun Oh and Rong Tang on Smartphones & Current Events

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

June 13, 2023

Dr. Kyong Eun Oh and Dr. Rong Tang wrote Smartphones and Information on Current Events. to be published by Routledge.  My interview with the authors is below. 

Please introduce yourselves to our readers.

Kyong Eun Oh is an Associate Professor and the Co-Director of the Ph.D. program in the School of Library and Information Science at Simmons University. Her research interests include personal information management, information behavior including mobile news information behavior, and information organization. She studies how people manage and organize their digital files and how people use and interact with information in everyday life.

Rong Tang is a Full Professor and the Co-Director of the Ph.D. program at the School of Library and Information Science, Simmons University. She is a Co-Leader for the Research Data Management Librarian Academy (RDMLA) and for the Data Services Continuing Professional Education (DSCPE) program. Professionally, Rong Tang serves as the President for Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) 2022– 2023. Her research interests include mobile news information behavior, research data management services, open government data, usability and user experience, social support during the pandemic, and paradigm shift in the field of information.

 Briefly summarize your book Smartphones and Information on Current Events.

In this book, we aim to provide great insights into young people’s news consumption patterns and the ecology of mobile news. Advancing the knowledge of mobile behavior, our book also highlights the ways in which mobile news affects the lives of the general public. Using a multi-faceted research model on mobile news consumption behavior, we examined a wide spectrum of mobile news consumption activities, outlined the key characteristics of mobile news, as well as captured users’ near real- time evaluation of and emotional reactions to news stories. Our book also shows that the process of using smartphones to receive, read, find, share, and store news stories has resulted in new behavioral patterns that enable people to consume news in a multifaceted way. Analyzing the extent and various methods of mobile news sharing can help readers understand how such exchanges reshape contemporary society. Demonstrating that mobile news consumption is now an integral part of people’s daily lives, our book clearly demonstrates that its impact on people’s day- to- day activities, and their political and social lives cannot be underestimated.

 Why did you decide to write this book?

The topic of mobile news consumption is timely, relevant, and interesting so we conducted a large-scale research investigation. As we have carried out a series of empirical studies on users’ mobile news information behavior, we wish to report in a comprehensive manner and greater lengths about our discovery which target the general readers and specify in a level of detail that is beyond a research paper can cover. We presented the results of the study at multiple conferences and published some of the findings in scholarly journals. However, we firmly believe that our findings and discovery are impactful to people from all walks of life and in everyday situations, rather than limited only to scholars and/or students of human information behavior. Moreover, through our studies, we discovered and reported a number of fascinating patterns of news consumption behaviors, which would have great conceptual and practical implications to broaden our understanding of how smartphones have altered the news consumption ecosystems.

 How does mobile phone news consumption differ from other forms of news access?

Mobile phone news consumption is now a routine part of news consumption. As we wrote in our book, the smartphone technology has completely altered the news media landscape. The ability to receive, read, share, and store news instantly on a smartphone has facilities participatory news consumption. Our research has revealed that university students have adopted a new behavioral pattern to consume news in a multifaceted way through quick reading and processing, and furthering their reactions to the news by posting their opinions, sharing their emotions, and co-consuming news with their friends and family members. 

Given that, through a multi-phased study using the diary method, we were able to capture near real-time participants’ news consumption behavior and their reactions. The mobile news consumption patterns are worthwhile to capture and reveal, and that is what we did through our book. 

 What role do librarians play in assisting library users with news consumption? What role do librarians play in assisting and supporting library users with their mobile devices?

The target audience of this book is people from the general public. We studied mobile news consumption from the point of view of information behavior. We do not necessarily declare the role of librarians for this particular set of studies. Nevertheless, being informed about university students’ mobile news consumption habits and behavior patterns, librarians may help their users better by suggesting credible mobile news sites or apps should the users approach them for advice. Furthermore, since nowadays people are exposed to massive amounts of information with varying degrees of credibility and validity, librarians may use information literacy training to help their users apply online reasoning to differentiate news stories containing accurate information from news stories containing mis- and dis-information, and to enhance informed civic engagement among mobile news users.

 How do you hope this book impacts readers?

In this book, we present a synthesis of our findings related to various activities of mobile news consumption: ranging from receiving news, reading news, finding news, sharing news, to storing news. We also describe our observations on how people assess news, and how their emotional reactions were attached to a given news story. Overall, the empirical data we collected yield a good number of significant results. Our report of our discoveries will advance the general knowledge of mobile behavior and further scholarly insights on the ways in which mobile news enriches the lives of the general public. In this day and age, the mobile news consumption cycle involves not only consuming the news individually but also socializing activities, such as: news-based sharing, commenting, connecting, and sustaining relationships. Mobile news consumption is now an integral part of people’s daily lives—its impact on people’s day-to-day activities, their participation in political and social lives, and their family and friend relation-building process cannot be underestimated. This book focuses on this timely and intriguing phenomenon.  

 Is there anything else you would like to share?

This book is based on the analysis of a rich set of empirical data, which was collected from real life news consumers. We collected data by asking our study participants to share detailed information about each news story they consumed through their smartphones right after consumption. The fact that our study involved multiple phases, including: pre-diary survey, diary, follow-up interviews, and the fact that our data thus captured the entire mobile news consumption cycle have afforded us not only rich but also nearly real-time data. Consequently, our data is much more tied to everyday life behavior than studies based entirely on self-reports. Our conceptualization of human mobile consumption behavior, therefore, is derived from vivid instances of news consumption with a wide range of activities. We believe our framework is comprehensive, empirically-rooted, and an accurate reflection of the phenomenon of mobile news consumption. 

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Dr. Lauren Hays is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent presenter and interviewer on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Please read Lauren’s other posts relevant to special librarians. Take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all types, sizes and budgets.

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