Classifying Web Users: A Cultural Value-Based Approach

Classifying Web Users: A Cultural Value-Based Approach

Wei-Na Lee (University of Texas at Austin, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-136-0.ch016
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In today’s global environment, a myriad of communication mechanisms enable cultures around the world to interact with one another and form complex interrelationships. The goal of this chapter is to illustrate an individual-based approach to understanding cultural similarities and differences in the borderless world. Within the context of Web communication, a typology of individual cultural value orientations is proposed. This conceptualization emphasizes the need for making distinctions first at the individual level, before group-level comparisons are meaningful, in order to grasp the complexity of today’s global culture. The empirical study reported here further demonstrates the usefulness of this approach by successfully identifying 16 groups among American Web users as postulated in the proposed typology. Future research should follow the implications provided in this chapter in order to broaden our thinking about the role of culture in a world of global communication.
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As the adoption of media technology such as the Internet rapidly spreads around the world, communication across cultures increases. Individuals from diverse cultural groups interact with each other regardless of physical distances. On the one hand, such increased communication between cultures might facilitate cultural convergence on the global scale (Kincaid, 1988; Rogers & Kincaid, 1981). On the other hand, online technology’s capability to offer individualized communication might further fragment the global culture as people with similar values, outlooks, and interests across the world pursue their personal agendas via the decentralized electronic media (Choi & Danowski, 2002).

Culture has been a focal issue in global communication. More specifically, cultural similarities and differences have been considered the key to understanding cross-cultural human interactions. Extensive research to date has provided ample evidence of differences between cultures in terms of communication styles and messages. Implicit to this line of research is the assumption that members of a culture are likely to exhibit a pattern of social perception and behavior common within the culture, but different from that of another culture. Given this paradigm of conceptualizing culture, most cross-cultural comparisons are made at the national or cultural level, that is, between nations or cultures, while overlooking potential variations among individuals within a culture.

In today’s fast-changing media environment, people are exposed to various cultures through a multitude of channels and formats. While still adhering to the dominant values of the culture in which they belong, people these days rely on multiple frames of cultural reference simultaneously to construct their individual cultural orientations. For these reasons, it would be too simplistic to assume that everyone in the same culture displays the same pattern of thinking and behavior. In fact, individuals’ cultural orientations within the same culture could vary widely (Campbell, 2000). Therefore, a thoughtful investigation of today’s technology-mediated global culture needs to start from exploring fundamental cultural value orientations at the individual level.

Foremost among the major dimensions of cultural orientations are individualism and collectivism. Generally considered as polar opposites of each other, individualism emphasizes the concept of self, whereas collectivism focuses on other-directedness. Departing from this dichotomous view, recent research has suggested a more in-depth conceptualization of individualism and collectivism where, depending on whether equality (horizontal) or hierarchy (vertical) is underscored, the following four types of orientations can be identified: (1) horizontal individualism (uniqueness), where one can be unique and independent while still maintain status equality with others; (2) vertical individualism (achievement), where one strives to be the best and enjoys privileges that come with it; (3) horizontal collectivism (cooperativeness), where interdependence and equality in status are valued; and (4) vertical collectivism (dutifulness), where people submit to the social hierarchy ascribed by their in-groups (Triandis, 1995, 2001; Triandis & Suh, 2002). Initial empirical evidence supports the viability of this four-way typology in detecting differences across national cultures (Nelson & Shavitt, 2002) and individual differences within a single culture (Lee & Choi, 2005).

Understanding similarities and differences in cultural orientations is the key for successful global online communication. Since the Web has emerged as an ideal medium for tailored communication for people across the world, it is imperative to obtain a baseline understanding of cultural values held by those who are users of the Web. As cultures increasingly interconnect on the Web and national borders gradually vanish, these insights will help prepare us for a future world community that is likely to be dominated by technology-mediated communication. At this juncture, research on cultural values in global communication should focus on the individual, not the nation or culture. Therefore, based on the aforementioned four-way typology, the goal of this chapter is to propose and empirically demonstrate a comprehensive classification framework for assessing cultural orientations at the individual level.

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Table of Contents
Steve Clarke
Chapter 1
Jeremy Fowler
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Chapter 2
Jeanette Eriksson, Yvonne Dittrich
This chapter reports on a case study performed in cooperation with a telecommunication provider. The telecom business changes rapidly as new... Sample PDF
Achieving Sustainable Tailorable Software Systems by Collaboration Between End-Users and Developers
Chapter 3
Marvin D. Troutt, Douglas A. Druckenmiller, William Acar
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Usability, Testing, and Ethical Issues in Captive End-User Systems
Chapter 4
Jonathan P. Caulkins, Erica Layne Morrison, Timothy Weidemann
Spreadsheets are commonly used and commonly flawed, but it is not clear how often spreadsheet errors lead to bad decisions. We interviewed 45... Sample PDF
Do Spreadsheet Errors Lead to Bad Decisions? Perspectives of Executives and Senior Managers
Chapter 5
Lixuan Zhang, Randall Young, Victor Prybutok
The means by which the U.S. justice system attempts to control illegal hacking are practiced under the assumption that hacking is like any other... Sample PDF
A Comparison of the Inhibitors of Hacking vs. Shoplifting
Chapter 6
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Developing Success Measure for Staff Portal Implementation
Chapter 7
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Chapter 8
Beryl Burns
We report the findings of a field study of the enactment of ICT supported knowledge work in a Human Resources contact centre, illustrating the... Sample PDF
Users as Developers: A Field Study of Call Centre Knowledge Work
Chapter 9
Raymond R. Panko
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Two Experiments in Reducing Overconfidence in Spreadsheet Development
Chapter 10
Steven John Simon, David Paper
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User Acceptance of Voice Recognition Technology: An Empirical Extension of the Technology Acceptance Model
Chapter 11
Peter P. Mykytyn
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Chapter 12
Elaine H. Ferneley
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Covert End User Development: A Study of Success
Chapter 13
Steven Hornik, Richard D. Johnson, Yu Wu
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When Technology Does Not Support Learning: Conflicts Between Epistemological Beliefs and Technology Support in Virtual Learning Environments
Chapter 14
Tom Butler
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A Theoretical Model and Framework for Understanding Knowledge Management System Implementation
Chapter 15
Jun Xu, Mohammed Quaddus
This chapter develops a model of adoption and continued use of knowledge management systems (KMSs), which is primarily built on Rogers’ (1995)... Sample PDF
Exploring the Factors Influencing End Users' Acceptance of Knowledge Management Systems: Development of a Research Model of Adoption and Continued Use
Chapter 16
Wei-Na Lee
In today’s global environment, a myriad of communication mechanisms enable cultures around the world to interact with one another and form complex... Sample PDF
Classifying Web Users: A Cultural Value-Based Approach
Chapter 17
Annette Hallin, Kristina Lundevall
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mCity: User Focused Development of Mobile Services Within the City of Stockholm
Chapter 18
Cristina Hava Muntean, Gabriel-Miro Muntean
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End-User Quality of Experience-Aware Personalized E-Learning
Chapter 19
High-Tech Meets End-User  (pages 302-320)
Marc Steen
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High-Tech Meets End-User
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