As someone with an insatiable curiosity, my experience with different media has been an interesting one. Often, the information found in one medium leads to another, and then another, to try to find as much information about a subject as is possible. A great example of this is the latest book on my reading list, which concerns the assassination of President James Garfield.
Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard is an exceptional book, filled with the fascinating history of an event that is mostly forgotten in today’s society. The history of the event, and the precursors leading up to it, are showcased in Destiny of the Republic, and it leads easily into a search for more media about the subject. That search leads into streaming video, both as a source of information and entertainment, and presents a good view of the uses and gratification theory.
My Sources of Information and Entertainment
I use streaming video for many of my information and entertainment needs, satisfying my curiosity as it flows between documentaries, motion pictures, and television shows. Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube are equal in sharing my time, and I use my desktop computer, Android tablet, and television to access the content. The combined might of the three services allows me to find nearly anything, sometimes as a surprise. As I was looking up video content for my interest in President Garfield’s history, I came across Murder of a President, a documentary based on Destiny of the Republic that I had not heard of. The documentary followed the book nearly perfectly, and I could visually get more information from its reenactments and discussions from other experts, including the author herself.
Moving from the book to the video documentary, and on to other video searches online, my experience with information about Garfield is a good look at how uses and gratification theory works. Quoting several other authors, “The uses and gratifications of media migration”3 described uses and gratification theory (U&G) as trying to understand the reasons people use different media, and the active intent in how they do so. In the case of my searches, all of my streaming video consumption was borne from an active interest in using the different media at my disposal, migrating between media to further the information that I was interested in.
Migrating Between Sources
To satiate my thirsty curiosity always means a continual search for more information, and a part of U&G theory concerns the motivation behind the migration to other sources. Destiny of the Republic filled in much of the history behind the events in the book, but the visual centers of my brain needed more information. These are “modality” gratifications, where the brain uses cognition and perception in different ways based on different inputs4. Things we see are perceived differently than those we hear, or even read, and using the capabilities of the internet allows people to find more thorough modality4. Watching and listening to Murder of a President through Amazon Prime offered a way to see historical characters with far more accuracy, and the reconstructions of historical scenes throughout the documentary allowed me to feel more a part of the events. The book does an excellent job of setting the scene in the mind’s eye, but the video recreations of those historical events give a stronger sense of what it may have really been like, leading to further searches for online information about history.
The time I spend with online streaming video sources is not always about history, but is far more open on a daily basis. While part of the reason that we have Netflix and Amazon Prime is that as a household we could not afford cable, and decided we did not use it anyway, I have found that using these services alongside YouTube opens up a wide gamut of information and entertainment for different uses. I also found out that neither of my teenagers were interested in cable television, as nearly all of their information consumption came through the same three services, with the occasional movie thrown in. Sometimes I use the services alone, and other times with my family, and I have found that they are used daily for different reasons across the services.
Each morning, I spend my first hour catching up on news and entertainment, with videos through YouTube being a part of that. Later in the morning, Netflix provides the entertainment while I exercise, typically catching up on television shows such as Person of Interest, whose episode length coincides with the time my workout requires. Netflix only carries certain shows, however, so later in the evening I might want to watch the television series Hannibal, only available through Amazon Prime’s streaming video service. At the end of the night, after the rest of the family has gone to sleep, I might bring up trailers and other videos through the YouTube app on my tablet. Any one of the services might come up in a break throughout the daytime, as being a freelance creator means sometimes having to wait for some other process to be completed. Migrating between the services, and between devices, is something that is very quickly and easily done.
My motivation behind moving between the different media changes throughout the day. There are four motivations for media migration: entertainment, escape, enlightenment, and content-congruent exposure3. As the day progresses, my interests, time, and motivation change, and each of these observed motivations comes into play with different media. Of those, as my interest in Garfield showed, the idea of my further interest in more information on a specific topic that content-congruent exposure represents is clearly the highest motivation. The interest in researching more information about a specific subject is a very strong reason to migrate between media3. My curiosity is tapped by assassin Charles Guiteau’s story, pushed along through video reenactments of the moment he tried to assassinate President Garfield, and further tantalized by YouTube videos of his unusual actions after the fact.
How Streaming Video Shows Who I Am
The ways in which I use online streaming media seem to fit well with the way that society as a whole is leaning, and my usage of streaming sites certainly mirrors the perception of who I am. YouTube5 reported that billions of video views are generated every day, through hundreds of millions of hours of people watching. I do not think twice of switching between Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube, personally adding anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours a day to online viewership numbers. The modality provided by the internet adds to our collective needs for varied types of information, offering society enhanced visuals and representations that are hard to find elsewhere4. Online streaming video from multiple services feeds all of our cognitive needs, and it is a pattern I fit into perfectly.
The societal need for different kinds of stimulus fits perfectly with the insatiable curiosity that describes who I am. My home office and art studio is filled with all manner of inquisitive representations of the fantastic, the unusual, and the curious, and my cognitive media needs must fit the same mold. Using video and streaming services, I can find ways to feed that curiosity even as it changes daily. Sometimes that need is a funny television show, or an action film, or a documentary about volcanoes. Sometimes that need changes mid-stream, and whichever service I am on at the time might not have it.
For example, I might be watching the comedy series Unbreakable Kimmy Schimdt, only available on Netflix, when I start feeling instead that I might want to watch the dramatic film Sicario. That’s only available on Amazon Prime, and having both services just means a quick tap to the other service. Partway through Sicario, I might be curious about Juárez, Mexico, a dangerous setting featured in the film. I can switch over to YouTube and watch a four minute discussion about Juárez and the drug trade, then switch back to the movie. That change of content is not only easy, but in many ways allows me to be who I am. My brain is in constant motion, and having access through online streaming media allows me to scratch that video itch in real time, with just the tap of a button.
My insatiable curiosity is fed well through online video, and having access to different streaming video services allows me to follow information from one medium to another very easily. Whether it is starting with a book, or a video, even a story I am reading online, the ability to jump to an informative video, on services with different offerings, is my favorite way to keep my cognitive abilities fresh and open to new ideas. Streaming video, both as a source of information and entertainment, is for me a daily concept, one that leads to feeding my wonderful curiosity.
- Millard, C. (2011). Destiny of the republic: A tale of madness, medicine and the murder of a president. New York: Doubleday.
- Rapley, R. (Director), & Bellows, S. (Producer). (2016). Murder of a president [Television series episode]. In American Experience. New York, NY: Public Broadcasting Service.
- Shade, D., Kornfield, S., & Oliver, M. (2015). The uses and gratifications of media migration: Investigating the activities, motivations, and predictors of migration behaviors originating in entertainment television. Journal Of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 59(2), 318-341. doi:10.1080/08838151.2015.1029121
- Sundar, S., & Limperos, A. (2013). Uses and grats 2.0: New gratifications for new media. Journal Of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 57(4), 504-525. doi:10.1080/08838151.2013.845827
- YouTube. (n.d.). Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.html