Willard Uncapher on Tue, 4 Dec 2001 10:24:58 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> New Studies of the Internet

There recent discussion of net.design usability lay out some interesting
questions about the varied audiences and groups engaged with the Internet.  
Who is the ideal audience of any particular bit of web coding, art
project, or even textual analysis?  Do these differences matter?  What is
lost between shifting from a 'local' group of interest, perhaps a net.art
collective, a rural development collective, or grand national surveys? If
our interest is in the arts, to what extent do we need our own surveys of
who are visiting sites of particular genres, what meanings engage these
audiences, what values they embrace, what they feel is lacking (a Lacanian
move, of sorts), and so on. I would think that site statistics of
particular sites, say the Walker Museum, may or may not solve general
questions of the net.art involvement overall?

I mean, what has happened to Mike Gunderloy's FactSheet 5 crowd and their
movement for underground 'zines?  What do we hear about these experiments
in this period of tiresome commentary about the .dotcom bust, and the
evaluation about when consumers are going to get back in the business of
buying stuff, and capitalists back in the swing of geometric financial
growth figures?  Who can we trust to put together such a survey?  What are
the criteria of that trust?  If as Giddens and others say, that we need to
move from place oriented social investigation (that is, that assumes place
as a given), to more systems (and I might add, hierarchy) oriented studies
(that can include, focus on, even problematize place), then what sort of
new surveys would prove of use to those of us (also) interested in
cultural analysis, political interventions, and artistic practice?  How
should these figures and results be circulated, where, and how should they
be checked and re/evaluated?

For example, it might be useful to take note of the just released "UCLA
national study of Internet Use, just released Nov 28th at:  
http://www.ccp.ucla.edu/index.asp .  Now on the whole, the Report presents
some interesting claims: Internet use is still strong and growing (despite
the speculative .dot com bust). Suggest that people are substituting the
Internet for TV within what we might call a 'media time budget,' since
other activities, such as time spent eating and playing sports are alleged
to have stayed the same. Suggest that there is still an increase in web
based purchases over 'bricks-and-mortar' based transactions, against a
broader context of an economic slowdown. There are some figures about
'trust' and about continuing fear about credit card fraud. Also, there is
a continuing expansion of email and instant messaging, making it still the
most popular activity online, and a key reason that people, according the
study go online.

It is up to you researchers and theorists to decide how these concepts
were operationalized (eg. what does 'trust' mean). The report obviously
sticks to a rather instrumentalist view of the Internet, tailored to
e-commerce, and appear to venture to raising issues of surveillance,
sharing of data, encryption, and other such aspects of Net use.  There is
not much account of, or at least orientation towards 'meaning.' And in
line with traditional social science methodology, the underlying narrative
and presentation does not speak to the tensions and contradictions in its
categorizations, nor is there any notable reflexivity.  I often find it
refreshing to listen to journalistic ethnographies, but then they must
attend to their presumed audience and editors.

I think we must continue to ask, what is the best way to 'investigate' and
intervene in online/offline worlds?  For whom, and what purpose. As others
have also said, such investigations as evidenced these UCLA, Pew, NTIA
Internet tracking reports often leaves out what the individuals were doing
while they were involved with one medium, or how they might use different
media in combination. This is particularly a problem in interpreting many
of the 'digital divide' studies. If digital divide studies are to be more
than marketing surveys for the under-served, then we will need to know
more about the role of libraries, collective competence, the sharing of
resources, multi-media competencies, and so on.



According to its results:  November 28, 2001 Posted: 11:20 PM EST (0420 GMT)
Highlights from the 2001 UCLA Internet Report, "Surveying the Digital Future."

-- Study based on national sample of 2,006 Internet users and non-users

-- Percentage of Americans with online access: 72.3 (2001; up from up from 
66.9 percent in 2000)

-- Average weekly online use: 9.8 hours (2001; up from 9.4 hours in 2000)

-- Average weekly TV use by non-users: 10 hours

-- Fewer weekly hours users spend watching TV: 4.5

-- Percentage of users who believe most online info is accurate: 58

-- Percentage of users who made purchases online: 48.9

-- Percentage of users who would reduce purchases if sales tax imposed: 43.3

-- Percentage of users with at least some concern on credit card security: 

-- Percentage of adults who say children spend right amount time online: 88.2

-- Percentage of adults who say children's grades have stayed same or 
improved since logging on:

-- Percentage of users who say e-mail improves communications: 80.9

-- Percentage of users who disagree e-mail takes too much time: 64.7

-- Percentage of non-users not interested in logging on: 21.4

-- Primary reason non-users give for not logging on: no computer

-- Percentage of students who use the Internet at school: 64.3 (2001; was 
55.3 in 2000)

-- Percentage of employed who use the Internet at work away from home: 51.2 
(2001; was 42.3 in 2000)


Willard Uncapher, Ph.D. / Network Emergence / 2369 Rodin Place, Davis, CA 95616
mailto:willard@well.com / http://www.well.com/user/willard 

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