Domesticating Computers and the Internet
journal contributionposted on 01.01.2001, 00:00 by Jonathon N. Cummings, Robert Kraut
The people who use computers and the ways they use them have changed substantially over the past 25 years. In the beginning highly educated men in technical professions used computers for work, but over time a much broader range of people are using computers for personal and domestic purposes. This trend is still continuing, and over a shorter time scale has been replicated with the use of the Internet. This paper uses data from four national surveys to document how personal computers and the Internet have become increasingly domesticated since 1995 and to explore the mechanisms for this shift. Now people logon more often from home than from places of employment and do so for pleasure and for personal purposes rather than for their jobs. Analyses comparing veteran Internet users to novices in 1998 and 2000 and analyses comparing the change in use within a single sample between 1995 and 1996 support two complementary explanations for how these technologies have become domesticated. Women, children and less well-educated individuals are increasingly using computers and the Internet and have a more personal set of motives than well-educated men. In addition, the widespread diffusion of the PC and the Internet and the response of the computing industry to the diversity in consumers has led to a rich set of personal and domestic services.