The Story of Wearable Technology: A Framing Analysis

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Virginia Tech


The global wearable technology market is forecasted for strong growth over the next five years with revenue expected to reach $14 billion in 2016 and grow to $34.2 billion by 2020 (CCS Insight, 2016). The wearable industry has undergone a long metamorphosis and growth and is presently becoming more mainstream with the popularization of fitness trackers and smartwatches. Because media portrayals influence public perception of topics covered by the media, exploring media portrayals of wearables is an important component part of understanding trends in growth and popularity of wearables. No other study has analyzed how the media has talked about wearable technology. This study examines newspaper coverage of wearable technology from 1988-2016 using the news framing perspective.

A systematic content analysis was conducted on 182 articles from the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, New York Post and The Washington Post analyzing issue frames, interview sources, episodic vs thematic frames, and type of wearable. This study found that among the four issue frames (progress, regulation, conflict, and generic risk) progress was the dominant frame. Episodic news frames emphasizing individual or specific examples were heavily relied on over thematic frames. The frequency of mentioning sources was not related to episodic/thematic coverage except for professor as an interview source. This study also found a significant relationship between interview source and year for no source. The results of this research provides useful insight into how wearable technology has been framed over the past 28 years by the news media which is helpful for companies creating and marketing these technologies, journalists writing about this type of technology, and scholars interested in understanding how the media talks about a new technology while it is in the process of diffusion.



Framing, technology frames, wearable technology, wearable computing, progress