Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 10, 2010

Rural Internet Use featured in American Behavioral Scientist

I have been holding onto the following bibliography for a while, hoping that I might be able to track down the actual articles, but so far I’ve read just one. The May 2010 issue of the American Behavioral Scientist (53,9), “The Internet in Rural North American Life” edited by Michael J. Stern, Jessica Collins, and Barry Wellman, is now available online. The papers address substantive and methodological issues regarding the place of the internet in daily life, in general, with a specific focus on rural places and their unique qualities. The articles focus on topics such as geographic isolation, community cohesion, social networks, technological diffusion, and challenges for survey research.

The unfortunate thing is that this issue is not available online for free. I was able to track down one article: The Diffusion of Internet Technologies to Rural Communities: A Portrait of Broadband Supply and Demand. The authors look at how various community characteristics (age, education, rural vs urban, broadband availability) contribute to the digital divide. They track communities in Oklahoma in 2003 and 2006. Then they offer policy suggestions to help boost adoption.

It’s interesting and if you love numbers, this article is for you. They start with the Theory of Diffusion or how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures. Then they slice and dice statistics to try to track what are the key factors in deciding who gets broadband. (I mean that in every sense of get.) It turns out that rural-urban difference in and of itself wasn’t such a big factor – but rural areas are just the home to the demographics that don’t get broadband – such as age and education attainment. It turns out that while income is still a factor, it’s less of a factor than it was in 2003. (The study did not look at cost as a factor in broadband adoption.) Like income, access to broadband is an issue, but it not a big issue.

Their policy suggestion is to focus on demonstrating the benefits of the technology to groups known to be late adopters. One the demand is increased it will make sense to target access – of course with increased demand it also makes sense that the market would be pick up some slack. While the article doesn’t necessarily spell it out I think in time more areas will get coverage regardless – although I guess the question is whether they’ll get the broadband to meet the needs today or in the future.

So there’s a taste of one article from the American Behavioral Scientist. If you have access to an academic library, you may be able to get access but the articles were so on topic, I had to mention them. I have provided a list of the articles with quick annotations.

Rural and Urban Differences in the Internet Society-Real and Relatively Important. Michael J. Stern and Barry Wellman. American Behavioral Scientist 2010;53 1251-1256

  • An introduction to the whole issue, the author outlines potential differences between rural and urban use of the Internet – such as difference in use of email and access to online healthcare information (both explained in other articles from the issue).

The Consequences of Personal Networks for Internet Use in Rural Areas. Jeffrey Boase. American Behavioral Scientist 2010;53 1257-1267

  • The author uses the results of a survey of 2,200 people to argue that personal networks in rural areas may hamper general levels of Internet adoption and high-speed Internet connection at home.
  • Added: http://tinyurl.com/25q9d92

Community Cohesion and Canadian Rural E-Mail Behavior. Derek Wilkinson. American Behavioral Scientist 2010;53 1268-1282

  • The author looks at email use in rural Canada based on psychological sense of community (PSOC). He determines that e-mail use could be increased by developing greater computer skills; it could also be increased by changing the attitudes that people have as measured in PSOC.

The Diffusion of Internet Technologies to Rural Communities: A Portrait of Broadband Supply and Demand. Brian E. Whitacre. American Behavioral Scientist 2010;53 1283-1303

  • The authors look at access to broadband in Oklahoma over 3 years – specifically looking at how specific factors have played into availability of broadband – community traits such as low population density versus residents’ demographics such as education and income.

Rural-Urban Differences in General and Health-Related Internet Use. Timothy M. Hale, Shelia R. Cotten, Patricia Drentea, and Melinda Goldner. American Behavioral Scientist 2010;53 1304-1325

  • Rural residents are less likely to use the Internet, attributable to factors such as educational level, income, and diffusion of broadband. Rural residents are less likely to look up health info. This article looks into the impact of these differences.

Internet Service Provision in the U.S. Counties: Is Spatial Pattern a Function of Demand? Lila K. Khatiwada and Kenneth E. Pigg. American Behavioral Scientist 2010;53 1326-1343

  • The authors set out to answer 3 questions: Do U.S. counties exhibit differences in Internet adoption? If so, what is the pattern of adoption? and How do county-level socioeconomic and geographical factors affect the adoption of Internet services? They determine that that market demand is the driving force as counties that are more urban, have more educated people, more business establishments, and higher housing value also have higher ISP presence.

Small Town in the Internet Society: Chapleau Is No Longer an Island. Jessica L. Collins and Barry Wellman. American Behavioral Scientist 2010;53 1344-1366

  • The authors look at the impact of broadband on one rural Canadian town and find that use has aided health care, shopping, and information gathering. It has led to greater mingling with folks outside town. Interestingly, folks in this town don’t really use cell phones, except when traveling.
  • Added: Found online Thanks to Barry Wellman’s note below: http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman

The Network in the Garden: Designing Social Media for Rural Life. Eric Gilbert, Karrie Karahalios, and Christian Sandvig. American Behavioral Scientist 2010;53 1367-1388

  • The author looks at difference in use of social media sites between rural and urban users. Results indicate that the groups have substantially different gender distributions and use privacy features differently. Also the authors suggests designers should reconsider the binary friend-or-not model to allow for incremental trust building. (Ann’s note: that’s genius!!)

Do Rural Residents Really Use the Internet to Build Social Capital? An Empirical Investigation. Michael J. Stern and Alison E. Adams. American Behavioral Scientist 2010;53 1389-1422

  • The authors show that Internet usage can play an important role in building social capital in rural communities, thus extending the systemic model of rural voluntary participation and community attachment. Then they talk about the implications for rural community development.

Using the Internet to Survey Small Towns and Communities: Limitations and Possibilities in the Early 21st Century. Jolene D. Smyth, Don A. Dillman, Leah Melani Christian, and Allison C. O’Neill. American Behavioral Scientist 2010;53 1423-144

  • The authors look at ways to use the Internet to survey rural residents. They found two fairly successful methods: 1) sending them invitations via postal mail to respond to either paper-and-pencil or Internet surveys and 2) web surveys supplemented with postal questionnaires, which are cheaper.

Responses

  1. […] Rural Internet Use featured in American Behavioral Scientist « Blandin on Broadband Rural Internet Use featured in American Behavioral Scientist « Blandin on Broadband. […]

  2. Our “small town in internet society” article in the issue is available on my personal website. http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman Thank you for the nice summary.

  3. Barry,

    Thank you for the link! I really enjoyed the look into Chapleau. I think many readers will be drawn in by the computer ownership vs Internet access statistic…

    …Similarly, 82% had home computers. Almost all such owners (88%) had Internet access at home. Among those with access, 50% used wireless mesh Internet at the time of the second survey, 41% had high-speed DSL, and 18% used slower-speed dial-up access. (Because some participants had more than one type of access, totals do not sum to 100%.)…

    Interesting to hear the positive and negative reactions to the Internet. I think we’d find similar in Minnesota. Email is great for mobilizing volunteers, as you point out, and as one person noted in your report teens can be much more eloquent in text messages than in person these days – but there’s also the fear that kids will turn to gaming instead of home life and that (real life) interpersonal communication will diminish.

    I did an entirely unscientific glimpse into Minnesota’s use of social media last year when the Daily Yonder wrote about Eric Gilbert’s study (included in your references). I found many of the same things – there were differences in use.

    http://blandinonbroadband.org/2009/09/12/rural-use-of-social-media/

    I hope you won’t mind if I add one more quote from your report, as it relates to the broadband adoption work being done by the Blandin Foundation. http://broadband.blandinfoundation.org/programs/programs-detail.php?intResourceID=1060

    … However, opportunities for economic, social, and political engagement are based on skill as well as access (Hargittai & Hinnant, 2008; Stern et al., 2009). This is key because the mere presence of the high-speed Internet access in a locality does not guarantee equal inclusion…

    Thanks again!


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