artmarketwatch5-23-10The average American sucks down 34 gigabytes of data per day, half of that from video games, says the latest update of a study by two researchers at the University of California in San Diego. That’s enough to fill 7 DVD discs. Every day.

After video games (55%), the next highest data volume is TV (35%) and movies (10%). Computer data makes up one quarter of one percent, because most of it is text, which hardly takes up any data at all.

All told, Americans consumed 3.6 zettabytes of information in 2008, and that despite the use of advanced compression algorithms to shrink down our media.

Surprisingly, the rate of data growth has been slow, much slower than the frequent doubling of computer chip components measured by Moore’s Law. Yet over the past 28 years, this growth has multiplied itself into a four-fold increase in bytes and a 140 percent increase in the number of words absorbed by Americans since 1980.

The study, available as a 37-page PDF download, breaks down digital data consumption — not counting that done at work — into several categories.

HMIusageHere’s the nerd’s version of an executive summary:

  • Americans spend an average 11.8 hours per day receiving information at home.
  • Five of those hours go to TV, just over two to radio, and just under two to computers. Games rack up not quite one hour per day. The phone gets 45 minutes.
  • Computer and video games acount for 55 percent of all information in the home, because of the fat, fast-flowing streams of graphics generated by games.
  • bytesWe spend 41 percent of our information time watching television, adding up to 37 percent of all data consumed.
  • Radio, at 10.6 hours per week, accounts for 10.6 percent of the words we receive, but only 0.3 percent of data volume, because images and video require much more data than audio to capture and play them.
  • All told, Americans in 2008 spent 1.3 billion hours consuming 11 quadrillion words.
  • Despite the billions of hours spent text messaging, the super-low data volume of text messages — 160 bytes maximum each — adds up to well below one percent of total data. It’s not mentioned in the study, but that same high-use / low-volume ratio applies to Twitter.

[Illustration: Keith Haring]