[Air-l] Great Ethical disasters in Internet Research?

Quentin (Gad) Jones qgjones at acm.org
Wed Jul 10 16:42:00 PDT 2002

david silver wrote:
> ooh, interesting sounding thread!
> like frank, i'm not sure if the study was an example of unethical research
> rather than methodologically flawed research.  along those lines, in
> addition to the notorious rimm report (for a great summary of the
> controversy see http://www.fair.org/media-beat/950719.html) i'll add two
> more:
> 1. Carnegie Mellon's HomeNet study
> the study:
> http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs.cmu.edu/user/copetas/www/public/pr/aug31-98.html
> reaction:
> http://www.columbia.edu/cu/21stC/issue-3.4/featherstone.html

I have read on a number of occasions attacks on the HomeNet studies for
poor methodology.  I am yet to read in these same messages details as to
why considering the claims that were REALLY made by the researchers as
to why the research was so "Flawed".  The depression claim was not made
as the journalists wrote.  Nearly all research is flawed, the question
then is relative.  Perhaps David would like to explain why HomeNet is
particularly flawed research.  I should point out that I have NO
CONNECTION to HomeNet although I very much liked many of the papers that
have come out this study.  For example

M. Christ, R. Krishnan, D. Nagin, R. Kraut, O. Günther, Trajectories of
individual WWW usage: implications for electronic commerce, Proc. 34th
Hawaii International Conference on System Science (HICSS-34), 2001. 

The growing presence of the Web in everyday life is inextricably
connected to the exponential growth in number and variety of Web sites
offering information, commerce and services. While the number of users
making use of the Internet and the Web has also grown tremendously,
little is known about the extent to which individuals utilize (say, in
terms of the number of visits to web sites) the Web and the trajectory
of the change over time of such utilization.
For example, we do not know whether the overall growth in Web usage is
attributable to the increased numbers of users or to increased intensity
of use of established users or both. This research is aimed to report
the results of an analysis of three years of longitudinal data on
residential Web usage. This data was assembled as part of the HomeNet
project at Carnegie Mellon University. Drawing upon recent advances in
semi-parametric, group-based statistical modeling, I examine whether
there are distinctive clusters of trajectories of Web usage. I find that
Web users can be clustered into four groups with distinct trajectories
of use. Each of these groups achieve saturation in their extent of Web
usage as measured in the number of distinct Web sites they visit over
time. Demographic profiles of these different user groups will also be
developed. The results are considered to have important implications for
Internet marketing strategy, and public policy pertaining to the digital

More information about the Air-L mailing list