Americans Are Info-Junkies
Americans are known for gorging on food, but we're also gluttons of another sort: A new study finds that the average American consumes more than 34 gigabytes of video, music and words a day—and that's only on our free time.
One byte of information is equivalent to one letter of text. One gigabyte is equal to roughly 8 minutes of high definition video. Thirty-four gigabytes of data would fit on about 7 DVD disks or 1.5 Blu-ray disks.
The study, carried out by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, looked at only the amount of information U.S. residents consumed in their homes and outside the home for non-work-related reasons. Work-related information consumption was not measured.
The study entitled "How Much Information?" was recently conducted by the Global Information Industry Center at the University of California, San Diego.
Zettabytes of consumption
The study found that the average American spent about 12 hours digesting 34 gigabytes of information daily in 2008. "Information" was defined as "flows of data delivered to people."
"Considering that on average we work for almost three hours a day [at home] and sleep for seven, this means that three quarters of our waking time in the home is receiving information, much of it electronic," the authors write.
Yearly, the American info habit consumes 3.6 zettabytes, or 3.6 billion trillion bytes.
To put that in perspective, if 3.6 zettabytes of text were printed in books and stacked tightly across the continental United States and Alaska, it would create a pile 7-feet high (2 meters).
The study also found that Americans "consumed" about 100,000 words per day. However, this figure also includes words that we hear on a daily basis, not just words that we read.
Traditional media dominates
Surprisingly, the study found that Americans spend most of their information consumption time — about 60 percent— watching TV or listening to the radio.
"In other words, traditional media still dominated U.S. households in 2008 ... despite the widespread belief that the seemingly ubiquitous computer now dominates modern life," the authors write.
In terms of sheer bytes, computer and video games took up the lion's share of data consumed. About 55 percent of the annual bytes Americans consumed were from computers and video games, the study found.
This is largely due to the powerful graphics chips used in some PC's and gaming consoles, which can deliver up to 100 megabits per second, or eight times that of high definition TV.