Social Science Computer Review

Volume 32, No 1

February, 2014


Title   / Authors

 The Role of Digital Skills in the Formation of Generalized Trust among Latinos and African-Americans in the United States / Jessica Lavariega Monforti & José Marichal

Abstract:  A number of scholars have noted a digital skills divide among racial and ethnic groups in the United States (e.g. Hargittai: 2002).  The ability to leverage information communication technologies (ICTs) in productive ways has been linked to greater levels of pro-democratic attitudes and behaviors (Horrigan, Wellman & Rainie, 2006; Valenzuela et. al. 2009; Vitak et. al. 2011).  However, no work to date has explored how this relationship between digital skills and political behavior is mediated by racial and ethnic identity.   Using an ordered logistic regression to analyze a 2010 PEW data-set of social media use, we test the proposition that proficiency in digital skills enhances generalized trust among Latinos and African-Americans.  We find that the acquisition of digital skills is associated with generalized trust for African-Americans, but not for Latinos or Anglo-Americans.   Our work suggests that ICTs in general and digital skills in particular might provide a distinct pathway to enhance generalized trust for African-Americans, a key precondition for civic engagement for historically marginalized groups in U.S. society.  We discuss the implications of this research for enhancing generalized trust among historically marginalized groups in the United States.


Gay Bullying and Online Opinion Expression: Testing Spiral of Silence in the Social Media Environment / Sherice Gearhart & Weiwu Zhang

Abstract: Social network sites (SNSs) such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, have recently attracted the attention of public opinion scholars. However, research testing existing public opinion theories in a social media context is scarce. This study represents arguably the first empirical examination of the spiral of silence theory in the social media environment. Through an experimental manipulation embedded in an Internet survey, respondents (N = 760) were presented with a hypothetical scenario (i.e., friendly or hostile) concerning gay-bullying, an issue suited for investigation due to its moral components. Willingness to self-censor, and to some extent, congruency with the national opinion climate, were significant predictors of various online opinion response strategies, indicating the presence of the spiral of silence phenomenon in the social media environment. However, individual characteristics such as issue importance, were related to willingness to communicate about the issue, suggesting a liberating effect on opinion expression.


The Interplay between Digital and Political Divides: The Case of e-Petitioning in Taiwan / Chungpin Lee, Don-yun Chen, & Tong-yi Huang  

Abstract: Political scientists have long been aware of the problem of unequal participation in democratic politics, the phenomenon we can call ‘political divide’. The emergence of ICTs over recent years has sparked a discussion on whether this long-standing political divide can now be resolved by ‘e-democracy’. This study aims to answer two questions: (i) Can e-democracy, specifically e-petitions, attract traditional non-participants to participate in public affairs? (ii) In the context of promoting e-petitions, can ‘digital divide’ alleviate the problem of ‘political divide’?

The data used in this study was collected from a national poll on citizen experience of and willingness to participate in the petitioning for referendum. The results indicate that those who recall participating in paper petitions tended to be older, less educated and with stronger party identification. Also, our results reveal that these people who can be effectively mobilized by traditional social networks, are mostly, in fact, the ‘digital have-nots’. Furthermore, regarding the potential participants in e-petitions, we find that those ‘digital haves’, who had not been mobilized in previous paper-based petition sessions, were more likely to participate in e-petitions if they are implemented in the future. The results demonstrate the existence of a possible negative correlation between the political and the digital divide. This suggests that e-democracy might be potentially beneficial to alleviate the long worried negative effects of the political divide in democratic polity.


The Framework of e-Government Services Capability: An Empirical Investigation / Guangwei Hu ,Wenwen Pan, Hui Lin, Kyeong Kang, and Michael L. Best

Abstract: Enhancement of the effectiveness and efficiency of e-government services (EGS) is critical to better meeting the increasing public demands for services. One of the better solutions to meet such demands is improving the government’s EGS capability (EGSC). However, few studies discuss the issues. The purpose of this study was to employ capability management perspectives to develop theoretical linkages and path relationships among the components of EGSC. Comprehensive validation was further conducted through path analysis using structural equation modeling methods based on the data collected from 102 cities of 26 provinces in Mainland China. The study unveiled the structure of EGSC, and path analysis results provided government policymakers or IT managers insight into enhancing EGSC through the improvement of the components’ performance.


Through a Glass, Darkly: Tactical Support and Symbolic Association in Twitter Messages Commenting on Stuttgart 21 / Andreas Jungherr & Pascal Jürgens

Abstract: Political actors increasingly use the microblogging service Twitter for the organization, coordination and documentation of collective action. These interactions with Twitter leave digital artifacts that can be analyzed. In this article we look at Twitter messages commenting on one of the most contentious protests in Germany’s recent history, the protests against the infrastructure project Stuttgart 21. We analyze all messages containing the hashtag #s21 that were posted between May 25, 2010 and November 14, 2010 by the 80.000 most followed Twitter users in Germany. We do this to answer three questions: First, what distinguishes events that resulted in high activity on Twitter from events that did not? Second, during times of high activity, does the behavior of Twitter users vary from their usual behavior patterns? Third, were the artifacts (retweets, links) that dominated conversations during times of high activity indicative of tactical support of the protests or of symbolic association with it?


Computer Audio Recorded Interviewing as a Tool for Survey Research / M. Rita Thissen

Abstract: Developers must understand the needs of user populations and the potential benefits of the new software to them, so that the development team can create an effective system. Especially for applications employed outside the computing profession, it is important for the software team to learn context and workflow and to understand the value that their development work will bring to the users. This article discusses design and implementation considerations for computer audio-recorded interviewing (CARI), a method coming into widespread use for survey research in the social sciences. When implemented as part of the data collection process, CARI allows a survey manager to listen to the exact circumstances of how questions were asked and answered during the interview, a much more powerful approach than prior indirect methods of quality control and improvement.  Design considerations can be complex when planning an integrated system. Based on a decade of experience and prior implementation of several distinct CARI systems, this paper explores a part of the operational world of survey research from the eye of the system developer. It offers context for those developers who are unfamiliar with survey research or for anyone who is unfamiliar with CARI operations. Discussion focuses on benefits, requirements, user goals, system design challenges and options.



Reports and Communications

Field Lessons from the Delivery of Questionnaires to Young Adults Using Mobile Phones / van Heerden, Norris, Tollman, Stein, & Richter

Abstract: To examine the feasibility of providing young adults with mobile phones for the purpose of Mobile-Phone-Assisted Self-Interviewing (MPASI) to improve retention in a long-term birth cohort study, mobile phones with survey software were distributed to 1 000 20-year-olds in the Birth to Twenty birth cohort study. Eleven months later, a targeted sampling frame was used to randomly select 435 participants from the subset of 734 phones that were still functional as survey tools. Text message notifications were dispatched at two time points, two weeks apart, requesting the completion of a 60-item survey. From the 435 young adults invited to participate in the survey, 105 (36.5%) submitted data in response to the first request and 84 (30.9%) submitted data in response to the second. The overall survey response rate was 33.7%, and item response rate varied from 88.5% to 100%. Contributing to the low response rate were challenges faced by both participant, including device loss and overly complicated survey procedures, and research team such as the deletion of the survey app by participants and the swapping out of study phone SIM cards making device management difficult. Reducing the effort required by participants to complete a survey, improving participant engagement in the data collection process and using participants own handset are all suggestions for improving mobile survey data quality and responses rates.


Mobile Phone Use in Africa: Implications for Inequality and the Digital Divide / Jeffrey James

Abstract: Traditional consumer theory assumes that welfare occurs at the point where a good is purchased and this assumption forms a central part of standard neo-classical welfare analysis. This note argues by contrast that the use of products (including technologies) is also a fundamental determinant of the welfare effect of adopting mobile phones in developing countries. To show this I rely on a new and detailed data-set for 11 African countries and reach some important – albeit tentative – conclusions about the consequences of introducing mobile phone use into existing literatures. In particular, this variable offsets the degree of inequality measured only by adoption and reduces the digital divide as compared to the conventional measure.


Geo-Segregation Analyzer: an Open-Source Software for Calculating Indices of Urban Residential Segregation / Philippe Apparicio, Joan Carles Martori, Amber Pearson, Éric Fournier, & Denis Apparicio

Abstract: The aim of this article is to introduce a new stand-alone application —Geo-Segregation Analyzer— that is capable of calculating 43 residential segregation indices, regardless of the population groups or the metropolitan region under study. In practical terms, the user just needs to have a Shapefile geographic file containing counts of population groups that differ in ethnic origin, birth country, age or income across a metropolitan area at a small area level (e.g. census tracts). Developed in Java by using the GeoTools library, this free and open-source application is both multi-platform and multi-language. The software functions on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux operating systems and its user interface currently supports ten languages (English, French, Spanish, Catalan, German, Italian, Portuguese, Creole, Vietnamese and Chinese). The application permits users to display and manipulate several Shapefile geographic files and to calculate 19 one-group indices, 13 two-group indices, eight multigroup indices, and three local measures that could be mapped (location quotient, entropy measure, and typology of the ethnic areas proposed by Poulsen, Johnson and Forrest (2010, 2011)).