digital diaries

The DIGE research team collected ‘digital diaries’ from seven students to give a snapshot of the ways they use technology on an average day.

Student X: research postgraduate

I am a DPhil student on my third year. I’m currently conducting fieldwork online and offline. This is a common day in my life. The only difference occurs a) when I’m sleeping in until late because I’m staying up working until early morning or b) when I’m in the field conducting research.

7:30 am. I’m in bed in my private accommodation in Summertown. My phone alarm goes off. I have managed to sleep 4 hours – I had to stay up late to do online fieldwork with some of my informants that live in the US. The time difference is often against me, I’m talking to people from US, Japan, Korea, and Indonesia. I am also in contact with Europeans who are night owls.

8 am. Time to get up. I’m checking my e-mail on my rooted HTC desire using my carrier’s Internet connection. I have all 7 e-mail addresses on my phone’s e-mail client so it’s easy to read everything anytime. I hardly ever receive e-mails on my Nexus account before 9 am so it’s still quiet. Time to check Facebook and see if there is anyone online to do some fieldwork. Some Spanish people are on so it will be a good idea to catch them before it gets too hectic.

8:30 am. Connect my MacBook’s power charger to the mains. Hit any key on my external keyboard to activate it – I hardly ever shut down my MacBook. It’s connected to a 24’’ monitor – my poor eyes cannot use a 13’’ screen all day. Plugging in and switching on my massive speakers – I could do with some quality audio. Logging on the house’s wireless… then VPN connection… failed. What? WHY? Cisco is terrible. Connecting again. Finally, connected.

I’m opening my Mail app client to check again my e-mails. I’m logging on Skype to talk to my Spanish informants. Yes they are online. Chat to them first. Video calling now. Connection established, ‘Hola! Can you hear me?’, ‘Well not really, the line seems to be broken’. Horrible VPN – I’m thinking. ‘Wait, I’ll disconnect from my University’s virtual network and I’ll log back in’. Few minutes later once logged out OUCS VPN I’ve got a functional connection.

10:30 am. I really need to do my GSS report. I can’t even remember where to go, main website? It’s too complicated. then what? Current students? I’ll just find the e-mail and get the link from there. Right. Let’s do this again: write my main report in Pages, make sure I have the right number of characters; perfect. Copy, paste, done. These two extra boxes about seminars etc are a pain… and useless. I doubt anyone is taking into consideration the training I need. Save and submit. Failed. Apparently Pages counts characters differently than the GSS form. Ok, type it all from the beginning. Save and submit. Thank you. Since I’m on this thing, I may print a University Certificate to send to my parents for taxing purposes. Ok got it, save, and sent to my HP all-in-one printer.

11:30 am. Breakfast? It’s lunchtime. Off to [my college]. I’m in the MCR by 12pm. Taking out my wonderfully hacked into an Android tablet Nook Color. Connect to Eduroam – this took me 2 days to figure out how to make it work on my tablet. Connected. Check e-mail. Suddenly Eduroam disconnects and reconnects after 10 seconds. Same pattern few minutes later. Time for lunch.

1 pm. Library break. I need to find a book. I’m on my Nook logging on SOLO. The internet connection is so bad that I have to use my mobile phone as a portable hotspot. Connecting on my carrier’s internet provider on my phone… launching Wi-Fi hotspot… connecting with my Nook. Stable. Logging on SOLO. Searching for book – found, [my college] library – I’m there already. It would be quicker to browse the shelves than check it online!

Taking notes on my Nook using Evernote – this Bluetooth keyboard works wonders with my Nook. Save and upload notes on Evernote. Now it’s time for the hard part.

Using printing services at [my college] is a challenge. I’m logging on the library computer, which is slower than my 10-year-old home computer. After 10 minutes of logging in and using Internet Explorer to open my Nexus e-mail, I am finally able to download the article I need to print out. If the printing settings are correct. Luckily, they are and my article is printing. Time to return in the upstairs library and do some writing.

Unfortunately, undergraduate students are really annoying when in the library, disrespecting the rules: some of them are eating, others leave their stuff everywhere, others are constantly chatting. The library is not the place for me to work at this time. Off to a cafe.

4:30 pm. Just arrived in the Jam Factory and rang my College friend to ask if she wants to study together. We are working on completely different topics, but that’s the beauty of it. We are chatting over tea and then log our machines on the cafe’s wi-fi. For a second I thought of connecting my Android tablet to VPN but then I remember it keeps failing. I’m checking my e-mails and reply to some of them, while I flag the very important ones as ‘to do’ for later. Then I’m going back to my Evernote typing.

6:30pm. Logging on Weblearn – the old version as the new one is pretty annoying to work out – to check out any lectures at my Faculty tomorrow. I’m directed at the New Weblearn. Checking any seminars at the Oxford Internet Institute.  Signing up to one of them. Logging off and going on Oxford University Online Skills scheme. There are 2 modules that I’d like to complete. I’m setting up an alarm on my smartphone to do that later.

7 pm. Time to check Facebook, Twitter, the news, e-mail. Some of my informants have e-mailed me so I need to flag it and read it carefully later on. I need to arrange 2 fieldwork trips – one in Paris, one in Utrecht. I’m checking prices on Eurostar and

7:30pm. I’m downloading at the same time an award application form. I’m opening it on my Android using Olive office.

8pm. I am brainstorming on Evernote, attempting to write an abstract for a conference paper. 200 words later I save and upload.

8:30pm. I am checking my Google RSS feeds. A new eBook has been uploaded to a blog I am following. I am downloading it from Mediafire. Save and open on my Nook – using Aidiko viewer.

9pm. I am doing online banking – check my balance on my accounts, make quick calculations. I am booking the train to Paris.

9:15pm. I’m checking my Gmail – I’m opening a message from a mailing list I’ve subscribed (Association of Internet Researchers). There’s a link to a paper that seems to be really related to my work – conducting Interviews online. I’m clicking on it, connecting to Wiley. For this step, I had to use my friend’s laptop in order to log on to VPN, send it to my Dropbox, and then download it on my Nook, but also have it saved in my account for future reference – and quick access from home.

10pm. Signs of exhaustion. I’m leaving the Jam Factory to go home.

10:30. Back at home. Switch on MacBook, monitor and speakers. Making quick calls on Skype to relatives and friends. Replying to Facebook messages. Putting on some music related to my research.

11pm. Quick dinner while reading a paper. I’m doing some changes on my questionnaire to send it to some informants. I begin to prepare a Keynote presentation for the class I’m teaching tomorrow.

1am. Very quick job hunting – checking my RSS feed for academic jobs. Check Daily Info. Nothing interesting. I begin to feel really tired but I have much more work to do.

I am briefly listening to a CD I need to write a review about. I’m writing down on Pages some ideas. Save and exit.

1:30am. I am writing down the structure of an article on Pages. Copy-pasting some old notes from Evernote, which is synced on my MacBook.

2am. I am writing a new post for my personal blog on WordPress- it will only be a quick one though this time, I’m exhausted.

At the same time I am replying to several e-mails from other members of associations that I’m a member.

2:30am. I have started completing an application for funding using Microsoft Word.

3am. Checking e-mails on MacBook, replying to few, flagging up several for the following day.

3:30am. In bed, reading an eBook on my Nook. Just before I go to bed I check my e-mails one more time on my Nook. Setting phone alarm for 8am.

Student G: taught postgraduate

This one is from the THEMA project in 2007, can you spot the differences?

8:45AM Woken by cell phone alarm. I check my 3 email accounts first thing when I get up, and I usually run through all the bookmarks on my browser window – most of which are friends’ blogs, but I also quickly browse the New York Times website, which is my homepage, and I log into Facebook if I’ve received a message (Facebook sends me a message if someone sends me one, writes on my wall, invites me to a group, or adds me as a friend. I’ve set it not to send me emails about events, which results in me not ever looking at the event invitations, but oh well.)

9:30AM to 12:30PM Class, generally with a break for coffee somewhere in there. During the break I usually run and check my email in the library. If it’s a statistics class we spend around 45 mins to an hour watching a power point presentation and having a lecture. Then there’s a coffee break, then we move to a computer lab to work on SPSS tasks in small groups of 2 or 3 people. The two instructors float around during this time to help and answer questions. The other classes are either discussion-based or, if they are a lecture, there is usually a PowerPoint presentation to go along with it. We generally get handouts with copies of all the slides at the end of the lecture, but I never take one – if I don’t take notes I will not listen, I know this about myself, so I write down everything the lecturer says in longhand (yes, I really do!) and then there’s no need to clutter up my life with more paper and another copy of what’s just been said.

12:30PM After the lecture I hit the library to check email and get reading to prepare for the next day’s lecture. This involves using the library computers which are set up for easy access to OxLip (Oxford Libraries’ Information Platform) and OULS (Oxford University Library Services) etc. I check out the books themselves whenever I can because I hate reading PDF files on the computer (and I refuse to waste all that paper printing everything off!). Unfortunately, for one of our courses there are 80 students and at most 3 copies of each book, so I do usually end up going for the articles that I know I can get online from the e-resources section of the library website. At this point it probably sounds like I am a compulsive email checker. I suppose I am: I never sit down at a computer without checking my email right at the beginning, but I hardly ever use my phone anymore: all I use it for is text messaging my boyfriend and maybe two other people, so all my contact happens over email and Facebook.

12:45-2PM – Speaking of text messages, I use them to find out what the boyfriend is doing for lunch and if we’re going to meet up. If not I might stay in the department and do some reading (especially if only the reference copy of a book is left), or else go home and get started on whatever I need to do there. I generally use Skype during these hours to call my parents, who have not left for work yet because their time zone is 5 hours behind ours. I use Skype to call my dad because he doesn’t use iChat, but my mom is for some reason always logged into iChat (I think I am one of two, maybe 3, people on her buddy list) and we use that to talk either over instant messages or actually calling each other with it. We video-chat from time to time, most often when I am stressed out and wanting to see my cats. She puts the camera on them and then goes off to get ready for work while I watch them roll around on the floor and climb on each other and generally be adorable. They have a real calming influence on me!

2PM-4PM Spent trying not to take a nap, but I often fail and take a nap anyway. Otherwise I’m doing the same things as below in the 4-7 timeslot.

4PM-7PM For some reason I find it hard to get started on schoolwork during the daytime, so I might read an article or two, but generally during the afternoon I work on other things like Summer Ball stuff (I’m the committee president), work for my job at the radio station, basically all my non-academic commitments. What this means in practice is about 3 hours answering correspondence, which is just ridiculous but unfortunately is the reality. I use Google for practically everything, it’s the only search engine I use for anything. Also when I’m screwing around online (I’m sure I am being productive during this time but it sure feels like screwing around!) I tend to shop for cheap flights to exotic destinations on RyanAir and EasyJet. I hardly ever actually buy a flight but I’m always looking. I also use job search engines like UChicagoTRAK (an engine powered by that I access through my undergraduate university) to look at jobs for after my MSc course is done, because I have no assurance about a DPhil and what to do if I don’t get funding is aaaalllways on my mind.

7PM-9PM Making and eating dinner. I really do take two hours to do this because I cook something elaborate almost every night, either from a cookbook or more often from a recipe found at or

9PM-2AM Schoolwork. This is when I do the academic stuff – reading and taking notes (always by hand), drafting the written assignments, researching etc. My boyfriend and I usually work together, and any disputes that come up in our discussions are generally settled by Google or Wikipedia. I work in my study bedroom or in the college computer room, which is usually quiet, and I can’t log into Instant Messenger there, so I tend to get a lot more done! If we work together only one of us can be online at a time, since our college isn’t wireless and we have to share one Ethernet cable between the two of us, so we take turns using it when we have to do something online – but again, I get a lot more done when I don’t have the internet! It’s a necessary tool at times, but it can also be a giant distraction when I’m trying to read or write.

If I finish schoolwork early (by midnight, say) we’ll sometimes watch a DVD – right now we’re watching an entire TV series on DVD, renting a few episodes at a time.

Posted in | Comments Off on digital diaries

Comments are closed.