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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Internet Research, Volume 19, Issue 1
User generated media (UGM) is huge. Whole societies have been created around web sites such as Facebook and MySpace, and the every-growing content on YouTube dwarfs the largest of media archives. UGM is also, apparently, immensely gratifying to both those who create it and those who view it. How appropriate then to study the UGM phenomenon applying Use and Gratification theory. This approach is taken in Shao’s article, “Understanding the appeal of user-generated media: a uses and gratification perspective” in which he analyses three interdependent types of usage and creates a model through which future UGM activity can be studied.
The exploration of user power continues with Bothos, Apostolou and Mentzas’ article, “Collective intelligence for idea management with Internet-based information aggregation markets”. Information aggregation markets (IAMs) help online communities harness and assess their creativity and the market mechanism provides a barometer of value for what the participating users have created.
Turning from the media to the message we look at the quintessential user creation: words. The words you and I choose to share becomes the focus of Steffes and Burgee, in “Social ties and online word of mouth”. They compare and contrast classic face-to-face word of mouth (WOM) with the increasingly popular electronic WOM and specifically reassess some of the currently accepted views of inter-personal communication.
The words we choose, whether online or off, are often quite pointed, occasionally more candid, and potentially more venomous when given under the cloak of anonymity. In fact the expectation of anonymity permeates much Internet communications activity. In “Collaborative attack on Internet users’ anonymity” by Puzis, Yagil, Elovici, and Braha the authors model and study the effectiveness of an attack on Internet anonymity when conducted by a group of collaborating eavesdroppers and show how the balance of power might shift from anonymous user to successful attacker.
Empowering users involves far more than a semblance of anonymity and a forum to generate and share media. By far the most significant issue in user empowerment going forward is the creation, assessment, and improvement of web sites to permit accessibility to users with disabilities. We must strive to reach higher levels of web site accessibility so that persons with disabilities encounter equal access and experience the empowerment gained from seamless access to information. The good news is that it is becoming more common to assess web sites with a focus on improving accessibility, however in their insightful article Hackett and Parmanto determine that “Homepage not enough when evaluating web site accessibility”. There is much work to be done in this area.
To round out this issue we have Mejia, Peña, Muñoz and Esparza presenting “A review of trust modelling in ad hoc networks”. They survey a number of trust modelling approaches from areas such as information theory, clusters and social network theory, and cooperative and non-cooperative game theory, to arrive at a common nomenclature and qualitative comparison. In “The role of experiential value in online shopping: the impacts of product presentation on consumer responses towards an apparel web site”, Jeong, Fiore, Niehm, and Lorenz discuss how product presentation impacts consumer response on apparel web sites. Their research highlights the use of the 4 Es – entertainment, educational, escapist, and esthetic experiences – as a basis for producing consumer response. While not considered by Jeong et al. in the current work, perhaps the time has come to add and study the fifth E – empowerment.
The next time you write on someone’s Facebook wall or share a magical YouTube musical moment remember that user generation of media, the creation of new ideas, and sharing of thoughts are three of the most empowering of human activities enhanced by the Internet. Most users may now take these things for granted but we must be on constant guard to ensure that the online environment remains safe with equal access for all.
David G. Schwartz