Social Science Computer Review

Volume 30, No.2

Summer, 2012


Age and trust in the Internet: The centrality of experience and attitudes toward technology in Britain / Grant Blank and William H. Dutton

Abstract: We describe changes in user’s trust on the Internet in Britain between 2003 and 2009, and show how the relationship between age and trust can be explained by a combination of experience with the Internet and general attitudes toward technology. The comparison uses 2003 results reported by Dutton and Shepherd (2006) versus similarly sampled 2009 data. We examine two sets of dependent variables—perceptions of trust and risk on the Internet, and use of the Internet for e-commerce, an anticipated impact of trust. We find that indicators of trust are related to experience with the technology, although this relationship is less important in 2009 than it was in 2003. We also find that trust is influenced by general attitudes toward technology. When both experience on the Internet and technology attitudes are controlled, the relation between indicators of trust and age disappears. This finding is particularly interesting since age is usually an important predictor of many aspects of the Internet; it suggests that the role of age can be mitigated by addressing the degree to which older individuals tend to have less experience with the Internet and more scepticism about the role of technology in society. Interventions could address both of these determinants of distrust.


The impact of mobilization media on offline and online participation: Are mobilization effects medium specific?  /  Sara Vissers, Marc Hooghe, Dietlind Stolle, & Valérie-Anne Mahéo

Abstract: In recent years, voluntary associations and political organizations have increasingly switched to Internet-based mobilization campaigns, replacing traditional forms of face-to-face recruitment and mobilization. The existing body of empirical research on Internet-based mobilization, however, is not conclusive about the effects this form of mobilization might have. In this paper, we argue that this lack of strong conclusions might be due to the failure to distinguish different behavioral outcomes of mobilization, and more specifically, a distinction between online and offline forms of participation is missing. In this experimental study, participants were exposed to potentially mobilizing information either by way of face-to-face interaction, or by website. The results of the experiment indicate that web-based mobilization only has a significant effect on online participation, whereas face-to-face mobilization has a significant impact on offline behavior, which would imply that mobilization effects are medium-specific. We close with some observations on what these findings might imply for the democratic consequences of the current trend toward an increasing reliance on Internet-based forms of political mobilization.


Effects of individual differences, awareness-knowledge, and acceptance of internet addiction as a health risk on willingness to change Internet habits / Qiaolei Jiang & Louis Leung

Abstract: This exploratory study proposes that Internet addiction is a health risk and examines the effects of individual differences (such as flexibility/rigidity, stigma tolerance, and concern with loss of face), awareness/knowledge, and acceptance of Internet addiction as a new mental illness on urban Chinese Internet users’ willingness to change their maladaptive Internet habits. Data were gathered from a 2009 online survey of 497 Internet users in urban China. Based on Young’s (1998b) classic definition of Internet addiction, results showed that 12.3% can be classified in the high-risk group for potentially suffering from Internet addiction disorder (IAD). The high-risk group tended to be significantly more rigid in personality, more concerned with loss of face, and more aware of Internet addiction. As expected, users who were flexible, tolerant of stigma, concerned about loss of face, and in the low-risk group were found to be more willing to self-discipline their problematic Internet use. Female, non-student, and low-income users tended to be more determined to seek self-help to recover from Internet addiction on their own, as addiction clinics in China are still scarce and expensive. Practical health policy implications are discussed.


 Using the Internet to administer more realistic vignette experiments / Francis G. Caro, Teck Ho, Daniel McFadden, Alison S. Gottlieb, Christine Yee, Taizan Chan, & Joachim Winter

Abstract: This paper illustrates an innovative method of administering stated-choice studies (or vignette experiments) using computers and the internet. The use video clips to deliver information to research participants makes vignettes more realistic, helps to engage interest of research participants, and can reduce framing effects. The method also provides research participants with interactive options before making judgments. A study to determine the views of older people regarding residential options is used to illustrate the method. Even older people with limited experience in using computers participated successfully. The study findings showed that research participants responded both to the audio-visual characteristics of vignette persons and to variables in the vignette structure.


Conducting Internet research with the transgender population: Reaching broad samples and collecting valid data / Michael H. Miner, Walter O. Bockting, Rebecca Swinburne Romine & Sivakumaran Raman

Abstract: Health research on transgender people has been hampered by the challenges inherent to studying a hard-to-reach, relatively small, and geographically dispersed population.  The Internet has the potential to facilitate access to transgender samples large enough to permit examination of the diversity and syndemic health disparities found among this population.  In this paper, we describe the experiences of a team of investigators using the Internet to study HIV risk behaviors of transgender people in the United States.  We developed an online instrument; recruited participants exclusively via websites frequented by members of the target population, and collected data using online quantitative survey and qualitative synchronous and asynchronous interview methods.   Our experiences indicate that the Internet environment presents the investigator with some unique challenges and that commonly expressed criticisms about Internet research (e.g., lack of generalizable samples, invalid study participants, and multiple participation by the same subject) can be overcome with careful method design, usability testing and pilot testing.  The importance of both usability and pilot testing are described with respect to participant engagement and retention and the quality of data obtained online.


Survey mode effects on data quality: Comparison of web and mail modes in a U.S. national panel survey / Eunjung Shin,  Timothy P. Johnson, & Kumar Rao

Abstract: Web surveys are being increasingly incorporated into national survey data collection programs in the United States because of their cost/time-efficiencies. Yet, response rates and data quality issues in web surveys remain important challenges. As a basic study designed to better understand data quality in a mixed mode national survey, this paper investigates the degree to which web vs. mail survey modes affect unit and item responses. Findings indicate that the web survey mode produces a lower unit response rate compared to the mail mode. However, the web mode elicits higher data quality in terms of item responses to both closed- and open-ended questions. These mode effects on data quality remain after socio-demographic variables are held constant. Given the increasing integration of web survey questionnaires into mixed mode studies, additional research is necessary to understand and document the processes that underlie mode differences when responding to self-administered surveys.



Reports and Communications


Why the Pirate Party won the German Election of 2009 or the trouble with predictions: A response to Tumasjan, A., Sprenger, T. O., Sander, P. G., & Welpe, I. M. “Predicting elections with Twitter: What 140 characters reveal about political sentiment” / Andreas Jungherr,  Pascal Jürgens, & Harald Schoen

Keywords: computational social science, elections, predictions, social media, Twitter


Where there is a sea there are pirates  –  Response to Jungherr, Jürgens, and Schoen / Andranik Tumasjan, Timm O. Sprenger, Philipp G. Sandner, & Isabell M. Welpe

Keywords: Twitter, microblogging, computational social science, information markets, prediction markets, election forecasts, politics, elections, sentiment analysis


Applicant quality: Exploring the differences between organizational and third party websites / Craig Talmage

Abstract: Few studies have assessed the differences between organizational and third-party websites, especially with regards to applicant quality. Organizational websites are hypothesized to bring in higher quality applicants than third-party websites because of the amount of organization-specific information they contain. This study assesses perceived differences between web recruitment sources in applicant quality using  a convenience sample of resumes from job applicants from a midsize company. Resumes were rated by human resource personnel in terms of applicant quality. The organizational website contained  higher quality applicants on average compared to four third-party website sources.


InterviewStreamliner, a Minimalist, Free, Open Source, Relational Approach to Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software / Hans Pruijt