Beyond Diffusion: A Conceptual Approach to Studying (Non) Users of Information and Communication Technologies

By Steven Richardson.

Published by Journal of Technologies and Human Usability

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published Online: September 22, 2015 Free Download

Current accounts of “users” and “non-users” of technology remain conceptually weak. Part of the reason for this is rooted in the assumption that “using technology” is an inherently desirable and (socially, economically) advantageous form of engagement. Another reason is that both phenomena are often explained in terms of the (purported) information needs of society, while the information needs and motivations of the individual are often overlooked. This paper will offer a brief critique of these existing perspectives, followed by a look at the author’s recent research on Undergraduate users and non-users of Facebook in hopes of developing a more robust conception of “the non-user,” not only as a useful starting point for any future research on the matter, but also to help foster renewed interest in the critical examination of issues surrounding the use (or not) of information and communication technologies. A new conceptualization of “users” that reflects the many and diverse ways that we engage with technology today will become indispensable in the production of better privacy policies for today’s online consumers. For instance, this issue has recently come to light in Germany and Ireland. Administrative bodies in these jurisdictions have taken legal action against Facebook for storing and collecting the personal information of people who do not use the site. This example raises the issue that privacy policies often only concern the privacy rights of “users,” sometimes at the expense of “non-users.” In sum, I believe this paper not only emphasizes the importance of taking the “non-user” into consideration whenever we think of “relevant social groups” and technology, but also promotes the possibility for understanding the nature of how we engage with technology in the 21st century in a more nuanced and dynamic way.

Keywords: Non-Users, Users, Social Network Sites, Information and Communication Technology, Privacy Policies

Journal of Technologies and Human Usability, Volume 10, Issue 3-4, September 2015, pp.31-44. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online: September 22, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 493.109KB)).

Steven Richardson

PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada