Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

The Role of Motivation and Media Involvement in Explaining Internet Dependency

Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

The Role of Motivation and Media Involvement in Explaining Internet Dependency

Article excerpt

Since its inception, the Internet has been hailed because it is convenient, informative, resourceful, and entertaining. It has been estimated that over 54 million Americans go online each day (DiMaggio, Hargittai, Neuman, & Robinson, 2001). That number is still growing.

It is of theoretical and practical significance to examine dependency on the Internet. First, this line of study should further researchers' theoretical understanding of media and Internet dependency, and shed light on the relationship between people and new technologies. Second, research on Internet dependency should help integrate the study of interpersonal and mass communication, and provide insight into mediated communication. In this study, the authors examined the influence of key factors, especially motivation and involvement, on Internet dependency.

Investigating relationships among motivation, involvement, and dependency contributes to understanding of the Internet in several ways. First, although each construct has received extensive inquiry in the past, research investigations have been independent of each other so that links among these constructs are not clear. In particular, the role of involvement in relation to motivation and dependency in the new technology environment remains sketchy. Second, to facilitate researchers' understanding of new media, an inspection of the formative process of communication outcomes is essential (Lin, 1993; Perse, 1998; A. M. Rubin, 2002). Nonetheless, a lack of empirical evidence supporting such a formative process mitigates researchers' conceptualization of media outcomes such as Internet dependency. Understanding media dependency warrants consideration of the possible influence of motivation and involvement in the process. Third, as Greenwald and Leavitt (1984) argued, different media have "different potential for boosting involvement" (p. 590). The unique attributes of the Internet (e.g., combining personal and mediated channels), for example, may help enhance or mitigate effects on involvement (Eveland, 2003). Fourth, researchers have disagreed about how to conceptualize and operationalize constructs such as involvement and dependency in the Internet context. There is a need to clarify the systematic links among these concepts to advance the theorizing of new media research.

Below, relevant literature on motivation, involvement, and dependency are first reviewed. Second, based on the literature, the authors elaborate the rationale for the relationship among these constructs and propose specific research questions and hypotheses. Third, method and results are examined and discussed.

Literature Review

Motivation

Investigators have suggested the effectiveness of combining interpersonal and media motives to examine media use, especially the uses of newer media such as computers and the Internet (e.g., Papacharissi & Rubin, 2000; A. M. Rubin & Rubin, 1985, 2001). Several researchers have suggested that people use the Internet to fulfill interpersonal and media needs (e.g., Charney & Greenberg, 2002; Papacharissi & Rubin, 2000; Wright, 2002). Flaherty, Pearce, and Rubin (1998), for example, argued that people use the Internet to satisfy interpersonal needs (e.g., affection), needs traditionally gratified by the media (e.g., entertainment), and newer media needs (e.g., meeting others). These different types of needs drive a variety of motives for using the Internet.

Internet Motives. Research has shown that traditional media motives explain a significant portion of why people use the Internet. Ferguson and Perse (2000) found people watching television for diversion also tend to use the World Wide Web for diversion. Kaye (1998) compared Web use motives and television viewing motives and found similarities among them. Six prominent motives were identified for using the Internet: entertainment, social interaction, pass time, escape, information, and Web site preference. …

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