Social Science Computer Review

Volume 28, No. 2

Summer 2010




Current Perspectives on Personality and Internet Use / Lisa J. Orchard & Chris Fullwood

Abstract: The Internet provides a means to take part in various online activities, for example leisure activities (e.g. online gaming), social activities (e.g. online chat) and information activities (e.g. online newspapers). Patterns of Internet consumption tend to vary greatly and this is said to be a possible function of personality. Therefore, knowing something about the personalities of those who favor specific activities online may provide a better insight into the motivational factors behind use. This paper combines and reviews current literature regarding personality and Internet use, using Eysenck’s three-factor personality theory as a framework of convergence. Although the Internet allows us to play with our identities, it would still seem that online behavior tends to somewhat mimic the behavior expected by one’s offline personality.


Video Viewing and Cognitive Development in  Preadolescents / Santha Kumari & Simerpreet Ahuja

Abstract: Preadolescent heavy television, video game, and computer viewers were compared to light viewers on their performance on tests of creative imagination, visual memory and attention span. Results indicate that heavy viewers performed poor compared to light viewers on all cognitive dimensions studied. Findings are explained in terms of the displacement hypothesis and formal features of video which may hamper optimal brain development.


Sensation Seeking and the Use of the Internet: A Confirmatory Analysis of the Brief Sensation Seeking Scale (BSSS)  by Gender / Jesús Manuel López-Bonilla & Luis Miguel López-Bonilla

Abstract: Sensation seeking is a personality trait which has been studied mainly from the perspective of behavior problems. The present study extends that research to consider the use of the Internet. The Brief Sensation Seeking Scale (BSSS), created by Hoyle et al. (2002), was used. This paper examined the relationship between sensation seeking and the use of the Internet from the gender perspective. The BSSS is invariant when the population studied is separated between non-Internet users, Internet users and online buyers. However, some significant differences between the four dimensions of the scale appear when we introduce the gender variable.


Sex Differences in the Expression and Use of Computer-mediated Affective Language: Does Context Matter? / Paul M. Brunet & Louis A. Schmidt

Abstract: Although women have been stereotyped as more emotionally expressive than men, the extant empirical evidence on sex differences in the expression and use of affective communication is equivocal.  We examined the influence of sex and context on the expression and use of computer-mediated affective language in a sample of young adults.  Fifty-six undergraduates (28 males, 28 females) were paired in same-sex dyads and randomly assigned to either a webcam or no webcam condition.  The participants engaged in a 10 min free chat online conversation in the laboratory.  Transcripts were objectively coded for the use of affective communication and traditional linguistic and conversational style measures.  The analyses revealed separate significant Sex X Webcam Condition interactions on the affective quality of language used and the expression of computer-mediated emotion.  Men in the webcam condition used significantly less active words than men in the no webcam condition and less than women in the webcam condition.  Women in the webcam condition used significantly more emoticons than women in the no webcam condition or men in either condition.  Men and women did not differ in their use of emoticons in the no webcam condition.  Results suggest that sex differences in the use and expression of computer-mediated affective communication are context specific in an undergraduate sample.  Findings are discussed in terms of their larger implications for understanding sex differences in the expression and use of emotion in face-to-face social interactions.  


Imagine – Using New Web Technologies in Demography / Mirjana Devedžić & Vladan Devedžić

Abstract: This paper explores potential benefits that professional demographers can have from using new Web technologies in their activities and work. To this end, the paper focuses on the users of these technologies, not on the technologies themselves. The technologies are explained only very briefly, and then the paper emphasizes two demography-related case studies: demographic research and higher education in demography. The paper uses the findings from a recent investigation on how these technologies are used in other scientific disciplines to argue for their more extensive use in demography.


Information Communication Technologies and Framing for Backfire in the Digital Rights Movement:  The Case of Dmitry Sklyarov’s Advanced e-Book Processor / Hector Postigo

Abstract: In 2001, Dmitry Sklyarov was arrested for his role in designing the Advanced e-Book Processor, the software that cracked Adobe’s e-Book encryption. Using historical data and situating itself within social movement theory, this article focuses on the case of Sklyarov’s arrest to show how the digital rights movement, by using online networks, mobilized activists and framed the event in a manner that led to “backfire” against government prosecutors and Adobe Systems Inc. The case illustrates positive outcomes for social movements when they use movement-specific online networks – networks that help to rapidly define the meaning of issues and that have the potential to inform mass media outlets, and through them, broader publics.


Using Questionnaire Design to Fight Non-response Bias in Web Surveys / Paula Vicente & Elizabeth Reis

Abstract: The technical potential of the Internet offers survey researchers a wide range of possibilities for web surveys in terms of questionnaire design; however, the abuse of technical facilities can detract respondents from cooperating rather than motivating them. Within the web survey methodology literature many contributions can be found on how to write a “good” questionnaire. The outcomes are however scattered and researchers and practitioners may find it difficult to obtain an overall picture. The paper reviews the latest empirical research on how questionnaire characteristics affect response rates. The paper is divided into three main sections: an introduction where the various forms of non-response in web surveys are described; a second section presenting questionnaire features affecting non-response - general structure, length, disclosure of survey progress, visual presentation, interactivity and question/response format - and a final section that summarizes the options in terms of questionnaire design and its implications for non-response rate.


Asking Factual Knowledge Questions: Reliability in Web-based, Passive Sampling Surveys / Kimmo Elo

Abstract: The advent of the Internet has opened wholly new possibilities for data collecting. At the same time, several unanswered methodological pitfalls are present, possibly questioning the usability of data from Web surveys. This article contributes to the scientific debate regarding the usability and reliability of Web surveys in the social sciences by discussing the reliability of the data collected in passive sampling Web surveys. The article analyzes two surveys containing the same questions, of which the first is based on a probabilistic offline sample, the other on a passive sampling online sample. Both surveys were aimed at measuring the respondents’ knowledge of politics. The findings related to the demographic characteristics were in line with previous research: men, young, better educated, and politically interested persons dominated the online sample. Regarding the reliability of the results of the knowledge questions, the findings show that online surveys are capable of providing valuable and reliable information about the differences (and similarities) between different groups of respondents, i.e. about general trends. However, the findings strongly suggest that passive sampling Web surveys should not be used for drawing conclusions about the absolute levels of political knowledge in a population. The big question which remains is whether the Internet can be seen as just another sampling environment or does the “unstructured anonymity” of the Internet require tapping into a wholly new sampling methodology.