Social Science Computer Review

Volume 26, No.4

Winter 2008


Table of Contents



Votersí Perceptions of Voting Technology: Paper Ballots versus Voting Machine with and without Paper Audit Trail / Menno De Jong, Joris Van Hoof, & Jordy Gosselt

        Abstract: Despite their unmistakable advantages, the use of voting machines in elections is a topic of vivid debates. This article focuses on the experiences of voters using three types of voting equipment: (a) a paper ballot, (b) a voting machine, and (c) a voting machine with paper audit trail. An independent-groups experiment was conducted in which voters had to cast a vote for a donation to a charity organization, and afterwards filled out a questionnaire about their voting experiences. The paper ballot was considered to be the most anonymous way of voting, especially by female voters. The voting machine (with or without paper trail), on the other hand, was considered to be more user-friendly than the paper ballot, and gave the voters more confidence that their votes would actually be processed correctly. No differences were found between the voting machine with and without paper audit trail.

        Keywords: voting technology, voting machine, paper ballot, trust, usability, paper trail


The Effect of Internet Use on Political Participation: An Analysis of Survey Results for 16 year olds in Belgium / Ellen Quintelier & Sara Vissers

        Abstract: In the literature, conflicting claims have been put forward with regard to the effects of internet use on real life political participation. While some authors argue that internet use, and the accompanying political resources, will stimulate political participation, others fear that intensive forms of Internet use will be associated with a withdrawal from public life. In this article we test both competing claims on a representative sample of 6,330 16 year olds in Belgium. We investigate young people's behavior, because we assume that young people are the most avid ICT users, while they are also most susceptible to the influence of various socialization experiences. Following various theoretical arguments, we introduce a distinction between the time spent on the Internet (time replacement hypothesis), and the various activities performed on the Internet. Our results show that time on the internet does not have an effect on the propensity to participate in public life. While some online activities are clearly and significantly associated with offline political participation, it remains to be investigated whether it is worthwhile to interpret this relation as a form of causality.

        Keywords: Political participation; Internet; social capital; adolescents; mobilization


Decision Support Systems for Public Policy Implementation: The Case of Pension Reform / Agneta Ranerup

        Abstract: This paper argues that the Internet not only serves as a basis for public service delivery but features in public policy implementation, with the specific aim of supporting the individual's decisions in educational policy, labor market policy and pension policy. The present study is based on the Actor-Network Theory, and illustrates the process during which a Decision Support System (DSS), provided via the Internet, is part of public policy implementation, with a focus on pension policy and the choice of premium pension funds. The study concludes that the objectives of the leading actors, which they attempted to inscribe into technology, have developed from a focus on supporting active choice and have subsequently changed to an intention to avoid systematically poor outcomes via regular check-ups of individuals' portfolios. The idea of supporting choice via a DSS was, despite some initial controversy, supported by many actors, albeit to a lesser degree by citizens' active use. Technology has developed from providing information and facilities for changing funds online into offering a DSS for advanced financial decisions. A final conclusion is that there are two ways of supporting citizens in choosing funds: the provision of a DSS and simplifying the available options.

        Keywords: Public policy implementation; pension reform; Actor-Network Theory; Decision Support Systems


A Safe Haven for Mis-behaving?An Investigation of Online Misbehavior among University Students/ Neil Selwyn

        Abstract: Whilst instances of serious 'cyber-crimes' such as fraud, paedophilia, hate speech and hacking have been the focus of considerable academic interest, more commonplace misuses of the Internet have received less attention. These misbehaviors and instances of malpractice include the misrepresentation of self via the Internet, the unauthorised downloading of copyrighted music and video files, the use of Internet pornography, online plagiarism and other forms of 'cyber-cheating'. Whilst these transgressions may be of minor legal and criminological importance they nevertheless merit closer academic scrutiny if we are to understand better the evolving role of the Internet in everyday life. Based on a self-report study of 1222 UK undergraduate students, the present paper explores the prevalence, nature and underpinning facilitators of five examples of such Internet-based misbehavior. Whilst the data show over 90 percent of respondents self-reporting some form of online misbehavior during the past twelve months, significant differences were evident in terms of gender, Internet expertise and, to a lesser extent, age. Although respondents tended to portray the Internet as a more conducive and enabling environment for such misbehavior, the survey data reported a strong correlation between respondents' propensity to misbehave in online and offline contexts. These data therefore highlight the need to contextualise instances of cyber-deviance in relation to the offline 'life-world' of the Internet user as well as the wider role of the Internet in every-day life.

        Keywords: Internet, misbehavior, cyber-deviance, downloading, pornography, plagiarism


Chronemic Cues and Sex Differences in Relational E-mail: Perceiving Immediacy and Supportive Message Quality / Andrew M. Ledbetter

        Abstract: Though major computer-mediated communication theories incorporate assumptions about the potency of chronemic cues, the claim that chronemic cues shape online message interpretation has received little empirical attention. This manuscript reports the results of two studies designed to assess the influence of reply rate in benign and complex relational e-mail. Study 1 demonstrates that reply rate functions as an immediacy cue, with some evidence for overall sex differences in the perception of e-mail. Nevertheless, Study 2 demonstrates that reply rate is not directly associated with perceived quality of social support e-mail, instead finding a three-way interaction between emotional empathy, participant sex, and reply rate on message quality. Among the more important implications of these results is that although chronemic cues are significantly associated with online message interpretation, obtained effect sizes suggest that the influence of these cues is not as potent as some dominant computer-mediated communication theories imply.

        Keywords: Computer-mediated communication, chronemics, immediacy, social support, e-mail, emotional empathy


Identifying Events Using Computer-Assisted Text Analysis / Juliane Landmann & Cornelia Zuell

        Abstract: Events like elections, significant changes in laws, but also extreme weather conditions may affect societal values and, consequently, public opinion. Accordingly, a central assumption for public opinion surveys is that respondents' behavior is influenced by significant events. It is therefore necessary to consider the impact of potential events when designing a survey, and whenever possible, to control for these. To support the documentation of such societal events, we have developed a procedure to identify events using computer-assisted text analysis. Event words are selected and grouped by means of exploratory factor analysis based on a comparison of a large text corpus which forms the reference for a smaller text corpus consisting of media items on significant events. As a result, the factors represent significant events during a specific time period.

        Keywords: computer-assisted text analysis, statistical association approach, reference text corpus, event reporting, newspaper articles


Matching the Message to the Medium: Results from an Experiment on Internet Survey Email Contacts / Casey A. Klofstad, Shelley Boulianne, & Danna Basson

        Abstract: This paper reports the results of an experiment that varies whether respondents are informed that they will receive a reminder email if they fail to complete an Internet questionnaire. The findings show that informing respondents about impending reminder emails effectively increases Internet survey response rates. Moreover, this method increases the representativeness of the study without negatively affecting data quality.

        Keywords: web survey, response rate, Internet, email, invitation to participate, contact



Reports and Communications


GeoContest: Modeling Strategic Competition in Geopolitical Systems / Nils B. Weidmann and Lars-Erik Cederman



Software Review


Utilizing Qualitative Data Analysis Software: A Review of Atlas.ti /

Reviewed by Sungsoo Hwang


A Rich-Media Solution for Distance Education: A Review of MediaSite / Michael L. Vasu & Ali O. Ozturk



Book Reviews


Global Perspectives on E-Commerce and Taxation Law, by Subhajit Basu / Reviewed by James Piecowye