Informed, Empowered, or Paralyzed?: Outcomes from Engaging in a Website

Informed, Empowered, or Paralyzed?: Outcomes from Engaging in a Website

Tina Harrison (The University of Edinburgh, UK) and Kathryn Waite (Heriot Watt University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9787-4.ch117

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Empowerment is both a process and an outcome (Pires et al., 2006). Empowerment as a process involves the transformative manner by which individuals develop skills, test their knowledge and gain control over issues that concern them. Empowerment as an outcome results in a state or condition of the individual who feels a greater sense of understanding, a greater sense of control and may demonstrate more active efforts to exert that control (Zimmerman & Warschausky, 1998). The process of empowerment does not necessarily lead to empowerment outcomes, although empowerment outcomes can be greatly reinforced by empowerment mechanisms.

Denegri-Knott et al (2006) suggest that studies of empowerment should be contextualized and situated. Hence, we locate our study of empowerment within the context of the e-environment, focusing specifically on the transformative impact of the e-environment in relation to empowerment outcomes.

A selection of empirical studies that assess the degree to which use of the internet and technology empowers individuals in their consumption practice is summarized in Table 1. This is not an exhaustive list, but rather presented as an overview of illustrative empirical work. Whilst these studies have clearly shown the empowering impact of the technology, they have failed to adequately account for the theoretical conceptualization of e-empowerment and have tended to focus on affective or psychological outcomes of technology use rather than behavioral outcomes. We address these limitations by developing measurement items for e-empowerment that account for psychological and behavioral empowerment outcomes.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Empowerment: Empowerment results from a combination of external assignation (the empowering environment) and internal realization of power (consumer perceptions). Hence, conditions must exist in the external environment that allow the transference or increase of power from one party to another. At the same time, the recipient must realize the increase in power and be in a position to benefit from this realization.

E-Society: Electronic or information society. The study of the impact of digital technologies on the behaviors and processes of individuals and organizations.

Pension: An investment arrangement used to provide individuals with an income when they are no longer earning a regular income from employment. Pensions come in different forms and can be provided by the state or by private enterprises.

Annuity: An annuity is a secure, regular income that can be purchased from an insurance company using the funds accrued from saving in a pension scheme.

E-Empowerment: Empowerment that is derived specifically from participation in an online context or e-enabled context.

Retirement: A stage in life when one ceases to work and earn money; the withdrawal from employment.

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