"How Much Information?" is the question researchers at the University of California, San Diego have been asking themselves in a series of studies of the same name. They've found that in 2008, American consumers used a so-massive-it-sounds-made-up 3.6 zettabytes of data, making for an average of 34 gigabytes per consumer.
If that sounds ridiculously high, it helps to understand how the study defines data. In short: everything. Absolutely all the data you consume — from video games, TV shows and even the printed word — is broken down into bites.
From Ars Technica:
The report involved collecting a large number of estimates of various forms of media consumption: hours spent gaming, number of newspapers sold, etc. These were combined with estimates of the amount of information content of each of these, such as the number of words in a typical newspaper, and (when necessary), converting that into bytes. As such, there are undoubtedly significant error bars on most of these estimates, although they're not provided with the numbers in the report. Still, some of the differences are pronounced enough that it's fair to say that even large errors wouldn't change many of the overall conclusions.
The study found that we spend 12 hours of each day immersed in media, with television and radio (the latter probably only mentioned as it's a "traditional form of media") accounting for half of that time, followed by video games and computer use at a quarter, and printed media coming in at 0.6 hours. There's a lot of overlap, too, meaning that some of us consume more than one kind of media at once.
I guess that makes sense, considering I'm writing this blog, scanning my reader with 40+ sites open, listening to the latest Giant Bomb podcast and queuing an episode of Castle up on Hulu for when I take a break for dinner in a few.