Magazine article Information Today

Driving on the Internet

Magazine article Information Today

Driving on the Internet

Article excerpt

The User's View of the Internet by Harry Bruce Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2002 ISBN: 0-810804365 221 pages $55

As information professionals, we use the Internet every day. We contemplate what the Internet will do in the future and how it will affect us. We also think about how to help our patrons find information online. However, we often emphasize the Internet's technology rather than its users. Just because it's possible to use the Internet to do a particular function doesn't mean that folks will. If you prefer to focus on people rather than hardware and software, you'll enjoy Harry Bruce's perspective in The User's View of the Internet.

Bruce is associate dean for research at the University of Washington's Information School. As an information scientist, he first became involved with the Internet in 1992 and conducted research on its use during the 1990s. In The User's View of the Internet, he utilizes his and other research to develop the concept of Internet "usings," micro-moments of use that "weave together information, contexts, and systems . . . the network and its services developed from using. It grew in directions, and was innovated in ways, that accommodated how people wanted to use the network." Bruce shows how studying usings, rather than users, can give us new ideas about the Internet.

The book begins with a brief history of the Internet. It's a little different than many I've read, as it focuses on people and talks about Internet pioneers. Bruce really concentrates on who the Internet is rather than what it is. After this historical survey, he discusses how people adopt new ideas and technology, citing such sources as Everett Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations and Icek Ajzen's Theory of Planned Behavior. These theories help readers understand the personal settings in which Internet usings occur.

Several diagrams help document the process of how behavior happens, including such factors as attitudes, norms, intentions, and outcomes. This leads to a discussion of the user-centered paradigm that's currently common in business and other fields. Such an approach is now favored in areas like marketing, education, and engineering. Bruce's concept goes even further by separating out a user's individual uses.

Bruce summarizes a number of studies in the chapter titled "Users of the Internet." It's divided by type of user, including academics, students, librarians, e-commerce users, and the general public. This section synthesizes a large amount of usage research to "provide us with a composite of micro-moment perceptions of the Internet as it plays a role in the daily professional and personal lives of people. …

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