Less of the Internet: Making Sense of Non-users, Ex-users and Intermittent Users

Marketing & Community , Social Media
Location: 1A08 Level:
Average rating: ****.
(4.00, 4 ratings)

Recent generations of information, communication and entertainment technology rely on constant Internet connectivity. Public policymakers, private sector interests and conventional wisdom agree that keeping consumers connected is a social and economic imperative. Look at advertising, scholarly work or popular media and you get the impression that everyone is online, and if they aren’t, they want to be. But recent reports on Internet usage patterns document the presence of ex-users, along with a persistent population of non-users. Not surprisingly, these groups are different in their size, composition and motivation, but together they account for up to 30 percent of the population in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.

This presentation examines the non-user and ex-user categories, and proposes another less visible, but equally important category known as “occasionally disconnected” or intermittently connected users. Social scientists and public policy experts have described trends involving ex-users and non-users. For example, Nielsen Online reports that over 60 percent of Twitter users stopped using the site within 30 days, while Facebook and MySpace enjoy higher retention rates. But to date, few studies have explored what motivates occasionally disconnected users. This presentation draws on a synthesis of recent quantitative studies, ethnographic research and other social scientific inquiry to shed light on these key questions:

• What motivates people to become ex-users of the Internet?
• Is this a growing trend?
• Are ex-users a coherent population?
• Are they a harbinger of things to come?
• What do their rejections tell us about how to make technology more compelling?

Ethnographic research, exploring second homes as technology sites, provides clear indications that people use their vacation time to remake their relationships to new technologies. But is this behavior an explicit disconnection strategy?

Recent work focused on PCs in the home points to other explanations. In many homes around the world, household personal computers are poorly maintained and often barely functional. While malfunctioning televisions and mobile phones are usually immediately replaced, a surprising number of households limp along with sub-optimal PC experiences, limited Internet access, and, by extension, limited access to Internet-enabled experiences.

This talk uses recent findings to show how some consumer populations manage their relationships with technology through complex disconnection and connection practices and looks at the impact of ex-users, non-users and occasionally disconnected users on the future of new technologies.

Photo of Genevieve Bell

Genevieve Bell

Intel Corporation

Genevieve Bell is an Australian-born anthropologist and researcher. With a father who was an engineer and a mother who was an anthropologist, perhaps Genevieve was fated to ultimately work for a technology company. As director of user interaction and experience in Intel Labs, Genevieve leads a research team of social scientists, interaction designers, human-factors engineers, and computer scientists that shapes and helps create new Intel technologies and products that are increasingly designed around people’s needs and desires. In this team and her prior roles, Genevieve has fundamentally altered the way Intel envisions and plans its future products so that they are centered on people’s needs rather than simply silicon capabilities. She is also an accomplished industry pundit on the intersection of culture and technology and a regular public speaker and panelist at technology conferences worldwide, sharing myriad insights gained from her extensive international field work and research. Genevieve’s first book is Divining the Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing, cowritten with Paul Dourish of the University of California at Irvine. In 2010, she was named one of Fast Company’s inaugural 100 Most Creative People in Business. Genevieve is the recipient of several patents for consumer electronics innovations. She holds a PhD and a master’s degree in cultural anthropology from Stanford and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Bryn Mawr.

  • IBM
  • Microsoft
  • Awareness
  • Blue Kiwi Software
  • Ericsson Labs
  • Jive Software
  • Layered Technologies, Inc.
  • Neustar, Inc.
  • OpenText
  • Opera Software
  • Overtone
  • Qtask
  • Rackspace Hosting
  • Sony Ericsson

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