[Air-l] Web 2.0 - "the machine is us?"

Elizabeth Van Couvering e.j.van-couvering at lse.ac.uk
Fri Feb 16 01:02:15 PST 2007

If I may address only a small portion of this conversation:


>> In what
>> kind of scenario would it be possible for a
>> person to use the web without having
>> to find something?
> As an aside: the term "surfing" was explicitly
> used for what people do on the Web, because it
> semantically contains rather large portions of
> drifting aimlessly, being shoveled where the
> waves go, being blown away etc., and not
> searching with a clear goal.
> Thanks for pointing out that most activities on
> the Web involve at least some searching, and may
> it be for the mouse arrow on the screen...


I would not characterise most use of the web as either searching or  
surfing.  In fact some excellent research by Thomas Beauvisage, in  
French, has shown that most of the time when they are online people  
stick to a very few websites - probably less than five - which  
include things like their mail (if they use webmail), news, and  
possibly a corporate intranet or family community site.  In these  
sessions they don't search - in that they don't use search engines at  
least.  Secondarily, they visit sites for routine but occasional  
purposes, such as buying a book or booking an airline ticket.  In  
this case they may use bookmarks or type the URL in, or they may use  
a search engine simply to remind them of the location of a site they  
already know.  Finally they may go on a long voyage of discovery in  
which both search engines or clicking on unknown, untried links are  
crucial navigation methods - this type of journey seems to me to be  
more akin to both searching and surfing.  According to Beauvisage, it  
is characteristic that more experienced users have a wider repertoire  
of websites and are more likely to search/surf (and other studies  
support this).  There are also some demographic differences, which as  
I recall were more related to the propensity of young men to search  
for pornography, which has a particular navigation pattern.

I've written a short paper summarizing some of his work, and others,  
in English, focusing particularly on the role of search engines;  
hopefully I'll  be presenting on this topoic at the next AoIR so  
would greatly benefit from critiques if you are interested in reading  

Beauvisage's original thesis here:  http://thomas.beauvisage.free.fr/ 
	(I note he also presented at AOIR 6 conf, some of you may have seen  
him there - sadly the paper archive doesn't seem to have any  
contents :-()
My short paper here:  http://personal.lse.ac.uk/vancouve/thesis/ 

Best regards,


Elizabeth Van Couvering
PhD Student
Department of Media & Communications
London School of Economics and Political Science
e.j.van-couvering at lse.ac.uk

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