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Journal of Computer-Mediated Comm., 6, 1


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Date: Sat, 30 Sep 2000 01:17:51 -0700
From: JCMC <>

Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication Volume 6, Issue 1
"Persistent Questions in Internet Research"


In this issue:

Comparative Response to a Survey Executed by Post, E-mail, & Web Form

Gi Woong Yun
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
The University of Wisconsin, Madison

Craig W. Trumbo
Department of Life Sciences Communication
The University of Wisconsin, Madison

Recent developments in communication technologies have created alternative survey methods: e-mail and Web sites. Both methods use electronic text communication, require fewer resources, and provide faster responses than traditional paper and pencil methods. However, new survey methodologies have controversial problems involving sampling, response consistency and participant motivation. Empirical studies need to be done to address these issues as researchers implement electronic survey methods. In this study we conduct an analysis of the response characteristics of three survey response modes: post, e-mail, and Web site. Data are from a survey of the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), which was designed to evaluate science writers' professional use of e-mail and the Web.

Our analysis offers two lessons. First, a caution. We detect a number of potentially important differences in the response characteristics of these three groups. Researchers using multi-mode survey techniques should keep in mind that subtle effects might be at play in their analyses. Second, an encouragement. We do not observe significant influences of survey mode in our substantive analyses. We feel, at least in this case, that the differences detected in the response groups indicate that using multi-mode survey techniques improved the representativeness of the sample, without biasing other results.

Internet Self-Efficacy and the Psychology of the Digital Divide

Matthew S. Eastin
Robert LaRose
Department of Telecommunication
Michigan State University

Internet self-efficacy, or the belief in one's capabilities to organize and execute courses of Internet actions required to produce given attainments, is a potentially important factor in efforts to close the digital divide that separates experienced Internet users from novices. Prior research on Internet self-efficacy has been limited to examining specific task performance and narrow behavioral domains rather than overall attainments in relation to general Internet use, and has not yielded evidence of reliability and construct validity. Survey data were collected to develop a reliable operational measure of Internet self-efficacy and to examine its construct validity. An eight-item Internet self-efficacy scale developed for the present study was found to be reliable and internally consistent. Prior Internet experience, outcome expectancies and Internet use were significantly and positively correlated to Internet self-efficacy judgments. Internet stress and self- disparagement were negatively related to Internet self-efficacy. A path analysis model was tested within the theoretical framework of social cognitive theory.

Community Development Among Distance Learners: Temporal and Technological Dimensions

Caroline Haythornthwaite, Michelle M. Kazmer, Jennifer Robins
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Susan Shoemaker
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
Simmons College

This paper explores social support and community development among members of a computer-supported distance learning program. The research focuses on what characterizes this community, and how students define and maintain community while largely restricted to communication through media that have been viewed as unsuitable for the maintenance of close social bonds. Interviews conducted over a year with 17 students reveal the importance of community and its role in supporting them in their "different kind of world" and important temporal and technological dimensions associated with community development. Each cohort begins in physical proximity with an intensive, on-campus "boot camp" that acts as a lasting bonding experience. When students return home, they reinvent this physical proximity as virtual proximity, appropriating technology and the opportunities afforded them by class and program structures to socialize and work with people they met on-campus. They enjoy the temporal proximity of "live" lectures and appropriate Internet Relay Chat's "whispering" facility to socialize; they make near-synchronous use of email, and use the timing of assignment submission to initiate email exchanges. Those who fail to make such connections feel isolated and more stressed than those who are more active in the community. Recommendations include promoting initial bonding, monitoring and supporting continued interaction and participation, and providing multiple means of communication to support the need to engage in work and social interaction, both publicly and privately. Overall, our interviews show that belonging to a community brings benefits to the individuals and to the program, and supports efforts by educators who strive to provide such a community for their distance learners.

Uses and Gratifications of the Web among Students

Samuel Ebersole
Mass Communications and Center for New Media
University of Southern Colorado

This study was designed to explore how some students in ten public schools view the WWW and how their attitudes and opinions affect their use of this new medium in an educational context. An exploratory principal components analysis of forty use statements resulted in an eight factor solution. Additionally, student responses to a computer-administered survey instrument were collected and analyzed, revealing significant differences in the way that students describe their use of the WWW. Gender, grade level, and amount of time spent using the WWW were used to create between-group comparisons of the WWW use categories that made up the computer-administered survey instrument. The final phase of data analysis was a content analysis of sites visited by students. A total of 123,071 URLs were collected from the computers used to administer the computer survey instrument. These were reduced to a total of 500 sites that were reviewed by media specialists. Students were found to be visiting commercial sites at a much higher proportion than those in other domains. Also, the commercial sites received the lowest rating for "suitability for academic research". And while students reported their purpose for using the WWW as "research and learning" fifty-two percent of the time, the coders found only twenty-seven percent of the sampled sites to be "suitable" for that purpose.

Functional Work Groups and Evaluations of Communication Channels: Comparisons of Six Competing Theoretical Perspectives

J. David Johnson
College of Communications and Information Studies
University of Kentucky

Hui-Jung Chang
Institute of Communications Management
National Sun Yat-sen University

Susan Pobocik
Department of Communication
Michigan State University

Marcy Meyer
Department of Speech Communication
Ball State University

Caroline Ethington
Department of Communication
Michigan State University

Diane Ruesch
Cancer Information Service
Office of Cancer Communication

Jean Wooldridge
Cancer Information Service
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

This paper examines perceptions of three different communication channels: written, interpersonal (primarily telephone), and e-mail in a new organizational form from six perspectives: social information processing, decision making, cost minimization, social presence, uncertainty reduction, and appraisal. The data used were part of a project designed to track the internal communication within the Cancer Information Service (CIS) over a four year period. For the purposes of this study, three functional groups were examined: Project Directors (N=11), Outreach Coordinators (N=16), and Telephone Service Managers (N=17). The results indicated that there were few significant differences between these functional groupings. However, there were clear differences between perspectives within channels and across differing communication channels. These findings might be attributable to explicitly adopting a receiver's perspective and the unique character of this new organizational form. This study suggests that refocusing on fundamental underlying processes may be necessary at this stage in the development of the literature on channel selection in organizations.

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