HomeNetToo: Motivational, affective and cognitive factors and Internet use: Explaining the digital divide and the Internet paradox

INVESTIGATORS

Linda A. Jackson, Principal Investigator, Professor, Psychology, jackso67@msu.edu

Frank A. Biocca, Co-PI, Professor, Telecommunications, Director, Media Interface & Networking Design (M.I.N.D.) Lab, biocca@msu.edu

Alexander von Eye, Co-PI, Professor, Psychology, vonEye@msu.edu

Gretchen Barbatsis, Co-PI, Professor, Telecommunications, barbatsi@msu.edu

Hiram E. Fitzgerald, Co-PI, University Distinguished Professor, Psychology, fitzger9@msu.edu

Yong Zhao, Professor, Educational Technology, Director, KLICK Klubhouses, zhaoyo@msu.edu

Darol Ware, Project Director, Graduate Student, Educational Technology, waredaro@msu.edu

ABSTRACT

HomeNetToo (http://www.msu.edu/user/jackso67/homenettoo/) is an NSF-funded research project that addresss two fundamental questions: What causes people to use or not use the Internet? What effects does Internet use have on people? (https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/servlet/showaward?award=0085348). A model of Internet use is proposed that addresses these questions by considering motivational, affective, and cognitive factors as antecedents and consequences of Internet use. These factors help to explain the digital divide and suggest ways to reduce it. These factors also help to explain the Internet paradox, and suggest that personal characteristics and contextual factors moderate relationships between Internet use and personal and interpersonal outcomes.

There has been much discussion about the digital divide in the U.S. and globally, and much debate about ways to reduce it. Most efforts have focused on increasing access to technology by placing computers in low-income communities, schools and libraries. Recent evidence suggests, however, that access may be a necessary but not sufficient condition for using technology, particularly the Internet. Motivational, affective and cognitive factors that influence technology use must also be considered. HomeNetToo is a longitudinal field experiment designed to consider these antecedent factors.

HomeNetToo was launched in December, 2000, and now includes 280 participants who are members of 90 low-income families in mid-Michigan. Most are single-parent, African American families. None had home Internet access prior to participation in the project. One-third of the families have been introduced to the Internet as a tool for communication (e-mail, chat). One-third have focused on the informational aspects of the Internet (web search, newsgroups). The remaining families serve as a control condition for the two interventions. In addition, half of the families use the Internet to satisfy consumptive motives (i.e., Internet shopping) and half do not (control condition with identical monetary compensation).

HomeNetToo participants complete on-line surveys at Pre-trial, 1 month, 3 months, 9 months and Post-trial (15 months). Survey measures focus on the motivational, affective and cognitive factors hypothesized to influence Internet use and, in turn, to be influenced by use. For example, survey measures will be used to test the hypothesis that Internet use is causally related to depression, loneliness, and reduced social contact. Repeated assessments of identical measures will be used to test causal relationships between negative affect and attitudes toward technology and quantitative and qualitative aspects of Internet use. In all, 8 hypotheses will be tested using the survey and computer-logged measures (described next). The following is an overview of the survey measures and schedule of their administration.

 

 

Pre-Trial

Survey

1 Month

Survey

3 Month

Survey

9 Month

Survey

Post-trial

Survey

Section 1: About you

Demographics, weight

Section 1- About you

Changes in demographics

Section 1- About you

Changes in demographics

Section 1- About you

Changes in demographics, weight

Section 1- About you

Changes in demographics, weight

Section 2: Computer/Internet experience

Prior experience

Activities

Know How To Do

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skills

Attitudes

General Affect

Value/Usefulness

Section 2 - Home computer/Internet experience

 

 

 

Frequency/Timing

Activities/Outcome

Specific Affect

IP Context/Family

Know How To Do

Section 2 - Home computer/Internet experience

Success/difficulty email and Internet

Frequency/Timing

Activities/Outcome

Specific Affect

IPContext/Family

Know How To Do

Skills

Attitudes

General Affect

Section 2 - Home computer/Internet experience

Success/difficulty email and Internet

Frequency/Timing

Activities/Outcome

Specific Affect

IPContext/Family

Know How To Do

Skills

Attitudes

General Affect

Section 2 - Home computer/Internet experience

Success/difficulty email and Internet

Frequency/Timing

Activities/Outcome

Specific Affect

IPContext/Family

Know How To Do

Skills

Attitudes

General Affect

Value/Usefulness

Section 3: Feelings and Relationships

Stress

Introversion

Innovativeness

Self-esteem

Depression (2)

Loneliness

Happiness

Physical symptoms

Section 3: Feelings and Relationships

Stress

Introversion

Innovativeness

Self-esteem

Depression (2)

Loneliness

Happiness

Physical symptoms

Section 3: Feelings and Relationships

Stress

Introversion

Innovativeness

Self-esteem

Depression (2)

Loneliness

Happiness

Physical symptoms

Section 3: Feelings and Relationships

Stress

Introversion

Innovativeness

Self-esteem

Depression (2)

Loneliness

Happiness

Physical symptoms

Section 4: Communication

Within household

Outside household

Social Support (2)

Social networks

Section 4: Communication

Within household

Outside household

Social Support (2)

Social networks

Section 4: Communication

Within household

Outside household

Social Support (2)

Social networks

Section 4: Communication

Within household

Outside household

Social Support (2)

Social networks

Section 5:
Life Events

Major Events

Daily hassles and

uplifts

Section 5:
Life Events

Major Events

Daily hassles and

uplifts

Section 5:
Life Events

Major Events

Daily hassles and

Uplifts

Section 5:
Life Events

Major Events

Daily hassles and

uplifts

Section 6:

Time allocation

Time spent in daily activities (e.g., work, sleep)

Section 6:

Time allocation

Time spent in daily activities (e.g., work, sleep)

Section 6:

Time allocation

Time spent in daily activities (e.g., work, sleep)

Section 6:

Time allocation

Time spent in daily activities (e.g., work, sleep)

Section 7:

Recent events

Personal accomplishments

Section 7:

Recent events

Personal accomplishments

Section 7:

Recent events

Personal accomplishments

Section 8:

5-D Self-competence

e.g., social, work

Section 8:

5-D Self-competence

e.g., social, work

Section 8:

5-D

Self-competence

e.g., social, work

Section 9:

Race and technology

Stereotype threat

Internet and Race

Section 9:

Cognitive style

Big Five Personality

Section 9:

Race and technology

Stereotype threat

Internet and Race

CHILDREN

Report card grades

Standardized test scores

Attendance

Report card grades

Standardized test scores

Attendance

Report card grades

Standardized test scores

Attendance

Children: 5-D

Self-competence

General use questions

E-mail and Web Use

Depression

Social Involvement

Children: 5-D

Self-competence

General use questions

E-mail and Web Use

Depression

Social Involvement

Children: 5-D

Self-competence

General use questions

E-mail and Web Use

Depression

Social Involvement

To test hypothesized relationships between survey measures and Internet use, participants' Internet use is being automatically logged in real-time over the 15-month trial. The following is an overview of the computer-logged measures:

Measure

Units

Total Time Online

minutes/day

Time of Day

list of hours (1-24)/day

Sessions

#/day

E-mail Messages Sent

#/day, list/day

E-mail Messages Received

#/day, list/day

E-mail Messages Specifically Sent to their E-mail Address

#/day

Unique Domain Web Sites Visited

#/day, list/day

Unique Domain Web Sites Visited with Sub-Domain Folders

#/day, list/day

Domain Extensions

# of .com, .net, etc.; list/day

Search Engine Key Word Queries

list/day

File Extension Types Accessed

list/day; e.g., .mp3

Total Time in Chats

minutes/day

Chats Visited

#/day, list/day

List Server Messages Posted

#/day

List Server Messages Received

#/day

List Servers Subscribed

list/day

News Groups Read

#/day

News Group Postings

#/day

News Groups Read or Posted To

list/day

Instant Messages Sent

#/day

Instant Messages Received

#/day

Instant Message Services Used

list/day

RealAudio Requests

#/day

RealAudio Length of Usage

minutes/day

Online Game Play

minutes/day

An additional focus of the HomeNetToo project is to examine the relationship between cognitive style and Internet use, and the implications of such a relationship for interface design. Ethnographic, observational and survey methodologies are being used to identify cognitive style types. Co-investigators in the Media Interface and Networking Design (M.I.N.D.) lab will design user interfaces to match the cognitive style types identified in participants. Interface design will focus on structure and processes that underlie information processing for each cognitive style type. A set of experiments will then examine the effects of matching user cognitive style with interface design on user satisfaction and performance on a variety of information-processing tasks.

The following is a subset of the hypotheses to be tested:

Hypothesis 1: Internet use will be greater in the Communication than Information condition, and greater in the Information than Control condition.

Hypothesis 2: Greater Internet use will be related to decreased communication within families, decreased social contact within near social networks, and increased depression and loneliness, after controlling for initial levels of these factors. These effects will be moderated by Personal characteristics (e.g., social extraversion, openness to experience) and Contextual factors (e.g., Life Events).

Hypothesis 3: Cognitive style will be related to Internet use.

Hypothesis 4: Interfaces designed to match the cognitive style of the user will result in greater user satisfaction and better performance (e.g., procedural learning, semantic learning) than mismatched interfaces.

Hypothesis 5: Internet attitudes will be related to Internet use (i.e., Internet trust, beliefs about personal importance of technology).

Hypothesis 6: Participating in e-commerce will increase Internet use.

Hypothesis 7: Self-esteem and self-perceived competence will increase as a consequence of Internet use for both children and adults.

Hypothesis 9: Personal initiatives and Personal accomplishments will increase as a consequence of Internet use for adults.

Hypothesis 10: Academic performance will increase as a consequence of Internet use, both the child's own use and use by the parents.

The findings of the HomeNetToo project will contribute to understanding the antecedents of Internet use within individuals and contexts, and the consequences of Internet use for individuals and society. Practical implications for reducing the digital divide and facilitating universal use of the Internet will follow. First, evidence for the importance of motivational and affective factors in Internet use will be used to establish guidelines for introducing and sustaining use. Second, evidence of the importance of cognitive style in Internet use will be used to establish guidelines for the interface design community on how best to support individual and cultural differences in technology use. As emphasized in recent reports (e.g., Networked Computing in the 21st Century, National Research Council), the transition to an information economy requires that the next generation of interfaces support individual and cultural differences in how information is sought, processed and used. HomeNetToo findings will contribute to this goal.

Selected References

NSF Award #0085348

ITR: HomeNetToo: Motivational, affective and cognitive factors and Internet use:

Explaining the digital divide and the Internet paradox

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