From Filled to Empty Time Intervals : Quantifying Online Behaviors with Digital Traces

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journal

1 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
Journal / PublicationCommunication Methods and Measures
Online published31 Aug 2020
Publication statusOnline published - 31 Aug 2020


Ordinary users fill some intervals on the time continuum by engaging in an online behavior and leave other intervals empty by disengaging from the behavior. Existing time-based measurements of online behaviors exclusively focus on characterizing filled time intervals and completely ignore the information embedded in empty time intervals. Empty time intervals, referring to time gaps between consecutive behaviors, carry important information on how time is organized for online behaviors. By analyzing two behavioral log files on webpage browsing and mobile application use, the study evaluates whether online behaviors characterized by empty time intervals differ from or accord with online behaviors characterized by filled time intervals. Behavioral burstiness, which measures the distribution of empty time intervals in consecutive online behaviors, is found to unveil behavioral patterns that are distinct from temporal duration that measures the overall length of the filled time intervals of online behaviors. Temporal duration is much more extended in mobile use compared with web surfing, whereas behavioral burstiness in mobile use is lower than that in web surfing. Marked circadian rhythms are observed in behavioral burstiness in web surfing and mobile use, whereas circadian rhythms are vague in temporal duration in web surfing and mobile use.