I am currently at the fifth IGF in Vilnius and yesterday I presented some data from our study on the online routines of the digital natives at the GigaNet. Here, i would like to share one observation that I find particularly interesting. In the graph below you can see a summary of our coding of how our participants reached website during our observation sessions. It reflects coding of over 650 instance of accessing website in each China and the US.
As we can see, in most cases, our participants searched; this is consistent across both groups and I think was not particularly surprising. Similarly, the use of bookmarks was equally consistent across both groups, which in my view was more surprising (perhaps since I am not a big bookmark user).
The differences, as you can see, were in the use of autocomplete and reliance on links. Interestingly, in the Chinese sample, there were significantly more instances of using reliance on links compared to the use of autocomplete. In the US sample what we see is practically a mirror image of this trend – significantly larger proportion of instances involved the use of autocomplete.
What makes it even more interesting is a glimpse at where do the Chinese participants follow the links from. We are still organizing that data, but my initial observation is that many of those are coming from websites that basically large repositories of links (for example take a look at www.2345.com or www.114la.com).
All this brings up some thoughts about the role of English in the online experience. In my view, one plausable explanation of this data can be the knowledge of English language. I can see how use of the autocomplete function comes more “naturally” to the native speakers, compared to those for whom English is a second language. The large collections of links that were utilized by our Chinese participants, further support this idea – why would you make an effort of typing in an inconvenient language, when you can go to just one website, where all the links you use are?
There are currently more questions than statements suggested by the snippet above – there is still a lot of work to be done on these data. Having said that, I’d love to hear your thought about this little observation. Please share…
You can find the slides from the presentation here.