Uses and Gratifications and Internet Profiles:
A Factor Analysis
Part 5

BY
SHARON A. ANGLEMAN
ARKANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY, DECEMBER 2000


SURVEY AND METHODS:

Survey instruments measuring Internet phenomenon are only now being developed, and existing tools have not had time to develop a history. This survey was designed by combining and modifying key elements found in other instruments. It was necessary to modify other media testing tools so that the questions would better relate to Internet activities. In considering the measurement of latent gratifications, it was sometimes necessary to develop entirely new inquiries.

Rubin, Perse and Barbato (1988) explored measurement techniques related to interpersonal communication motives and developed an instrument measuring six prominent motives: pleasure, affection, inclusion, escape, relaxation and control. Their survey provided the basis for the one developed for this study. Modifications were made to reduce items and to apply to the Internet.

In 1976, Burgoon developed and tested a means of measuring an individualís "unwillingness" to communicate. Unwillingness to communicate is based on the tendency to "avoid and/or devalue oral communications" (Burgoon), and therefore influence communication behaviors. Burgoonís instrument has been shown to be valid and appears to apply over several areas, including psychology and communications. Some of Burgoonís items are used for this study. These items are intended to help build more complete user profiles and help define characteristics and behaviors.

Television-related web motive items are also included in this survey. Ferguson and Perse (2000) examined Internet motives as they might relate to television motives. Some items are applied directly to this survey and some are modified.

Additional items for this survey were influenced by instruments designed to measure loneliness and mastery of self, and locus of control (Robinson, Shaver & Wrightsman, 1991).

An online "radio button" style survey (Appendix A) will be posted on the World Wide Web for participantsí access and convenience. Appendix C provides coding information. The survey contains 100 items within six sections and is designed to measure the following factors:

    • Basic profile: age, gender, education level, study field, Internet experience, activity preferences
    • Motives: entertainment, social inclusion, personal inclusion, passing time, pleasure, relaxation, escape, information seeking, control
    • Characteristics: affection needs, willingness/unwillingness to communication, locus of control, loneliness

A 5-point Likert scale is used with selections ranging from never (1) to often (5), and from strongly agree (1) to strongly disagree (5). Questions and/or statements are loosely grouped and are designed to include several controls to measure validity. When the form is submitted, information will transmit via the Internet as singular raw data e-mails, and will also update to an accumulative database file stored on a server. Primary method of testing will employ factor analysis.


SAMPLING METHOD:

The initial sampling method used a database provided by Arkansas State University computer services. The database included 300 randomly drawn active student email addresses. Active student accounts are determined by current semester enrollment status and numbered at around 4,000. Requests to complete the questionnaire online were sent to all addresses provided. Eleven of those emails were returned as undeliverable.

After making requests for participants, it appeared likely that many students used email address outside of the university server and did not regularly check school-provided email accounts. An additional sampling method was then used to generate data. Emails were sent to 34 listserv groups requesting their participation in the survey. Before requesting participation, groups were screened to meet the following criteria:

  • Groups should be composed of college students.
  • Groups should not be specific to any one college.
  • Groups should not be specific to one academic area.
  • Groups should not be specific to a grade level.
  • Groups should not be specific to a particular area of interest.
  • Groups should be open to all students of any interest or location.
  • Groups should serve as a general forum for students.
  • Groups should have more than 20 members.

The criterion was set in effort to produce random respondents that might represent the typical college student. The listserv sample may be biased to the extent that only students who are members of a listserv were requested to participate. An approximate total of 1,284 requests were made to participate in this study.

DEFINITIONS:

In this study, the Internet and the World Wide Web are not distinguished and are interchangeable. Online is defined as an open connection providing direct access to materials and services on the Internet. Usage refers to time spent engaging in activities supported by online services. Use refers needs that are met or expected to be met by online services. Intended use refers to activities presumed to satisfy conscious, premeditated needs. Gratification refers to the satisfaction of any need being met. Expected gratification refers to the satisfaction of needs through intentional use. Latent gratification refers to unexpected and/or unconscious gratification. Meta-connectedness (authorís term) or connectedness refers to a userís perception that he or she is emotional connected with the world, itís knowledge and people. This label would indicate a sense of synchronicity while online.


ASSUMPTIONS:

It is assumed that participants will answer questions honestly and with the understanding of the defined terms, that email addresses are valid and active, and that listserv membership and email addresses are active and valid.

LIMITATIONS:

Sampling methods restrict the research in that a small population was surveyed. Larger samples from the target population (active Internet users) would certainly be preferable. Time and costs also limit this research. Sampling was limited to college students who may or may not have established Internet habits. Promotion and longer time frames would allow for the collection of more data and provide the opportunity for longitudinal or follow up studies. Cost would also improve better sampling, and would allow for coders, surveyors and other general assistance. Additionally, lack of prior research in this area forces the research to be more exploratory in nature than analytical.

 

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Feel free to cite material in this study, but please provide this reference:
     Angleman, S. (December, 2000). Uses and Gratifications and Internet Profiles: A Factor Analysis. Is Internet Use and Travel to Cyberspace Reinforced by Unrealized Gratifications? Paper presented at the Western Science Social Association 2001 Conference held in Reno, NV. <http://www.jrily.com/LiteraryIllusions/InternetGratificationStudyIndex.html> (date of access).

Complete factor analysis and other detailed data is available upon request (SPSS format, IBM)). For information or comments concerning this study, please contact, Sharon Angleman at sharon@jrily.com Visit my home site at http://www.jrily.com/LiteraryIllusions/ for other journalistic materials.