Exploring News Reading With Eye-Tracking and Stress Measurements

Vegard Opedal, Gina Møller Sandtorv, Fredrik Jensen (lecturer) and Liva Snilstveit Hoem are preparing for an eye-tracking evaluation. Photo: Lars Nyre

Vegard Opedal, Gina Møller Sandtorv, Fredrik Jensen (lecturer) and Liva Snilstveit Hoem are preparing for an eye-tracking evaluation. Photo: Lars Nyre

How do readers navigate through news sites? Students at UiB conducted evaluations with biometrical equipment and gained valuable insights into reader behaviour. You can access their evaluations of national media such as Aftenposten, VG and NRK at the bottom of this article.

Written by Lars Nyre and Frank Wisnes.

Innovation pedagogy

VisMedia includes students in our investigations of new visual technologies in media and communication. They are the true explorers of new technological terrain, and VisMedia has for years challenged student groups to test the potential of drones for news journalism, and also the potential of VR for documentary storytelling

Biometrical equipment for behavioural research is seldom applied by journalism and media lecturers in day-to-day teaching. Audience evaluations conducted by industry professionals in Media City Bergen rarely include biometrical equipment, but rely on focus groups, quantitative surveys and other traditional methods. 

To get started with exploring novel tools, we presumed that teachers must push the students in front of them. Our approach is guided by the principle of "innovation pedagogy" which says that purposeful uncertainty is conducive to learning. We provide students access to novel technologies that previously haven't been explored properly in our university setting. By placing students in charge of activities that neither teachers nor industry people are experts on, students are typically quite uncertain about what to do, but as the exploration continues they become highly motivated, responsible and creative. The students become the innovators, while teachers assists them. 

User evaluations with biometric equipment

In the spring of 2019, VisMedia explored the potential for eye-tracking to contribute with insights for the media business. 24 students conducted six user evaluations of visual design in journalism, using eye-tracking, physiological measurements and qualitative interviews as the main tools.

The experimental tryout was conducted in the course "MIX202 Design for media use" in the spring of 2019. The course is part of the bachelor program in Media and Interaction Design at the University of Bergen in Media City Bergen. None of the teaching staff is experts on the use of biometric equipment, but credit is due to teachers Frank Wisnes, Fredrik Jensen and Johanne Ågotnes who, based on limited experience, explored the equipment along with the students and helped the group set up their user evaluations. 


The groups were given certain limitations for their exploration: They selected examples of visually-oriented journalism from national Norwegian newspapers or television stations. They used the eye-tracking tool and stress wristband, but no additional cameras or microphones were used. This would in all likelihood have caused data overload and made the analysis exceedingly difficult. 

Each group recruited two test subjects among students and young people in Bergen, following established research ethics. Finally, they were to conduct interviews with the informants to get their subjective opinion about their behaviour and about the biometrical exploration they took part in.

Below you can read an English language summary of the studies. Click on the image og title to access the complete study in Norwegian.