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We swim in an ocean of media

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The media "ecosystem" surrounding Americans - not just TV, radio, and newspapers but also the Web, PDAs, MP3 players, cellphones, video games, and more - keeps getting more widespread, personal, and diverse.

The world is seeing "a Cambrian explosion" of media usage, says Paul Saffo, a director of the Institute for the Future, a think tank in Palo Alto, Calif.

A new study bears that out, providing data to back up the feeling many have that they're immersed in some form of media nearly every waking moment. That's close to true, says a report from the Center for Media Design at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. Researchers watched the behavior of 394 ordinary Midwesterners for more than 5,000 hours, following them 12 hours a day and recording their use of media every 15 seconds on a hand-held device.

About 30 percent of their waking hours were found to be spent using media exclusively, while another 39 percent involved using media while also doing another activity, such as watching TV while preparing food or listening to the radio while at work. Altogether, more than two-thirds of people's waking moments involved some kind of media usage.

Using more than one medium at once

"The extent that we saw that was quite remarkable," says Michael Bloxham, a Ball State researcher who helped prepare the report, which was released Monday at a media convention in New York.

What's more, of the time spent using media, nearly one-third was spent consuming two or more forms at once, such as watching TV and surfing the Internet, or listening to music while playing a video game.

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