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Faculty members' Q study appears in Operant Subjectivity

An article by School of Communications professors Byung Lee and Janna Anderson is being published in the next issue of Operant Subjectivity, the journal of the International Society for the Scientific Study of Subjectivity (ISSSS). The peer-reviewed quarterly publishes articles involving original research, critique and methodological clarification. The journal's content is dominated by work based on the ideals and concepts of Q Methodology as enunciated by William Stephenson.

The article, "An Analysis of Internet Adopters," employs Q methodology to classify Internet users and explore reasons why some users are more inclined to embrace Internet technology than others. The respondents were 40 Elon University students who sorted a 46-statement Q sample. The Q sample was structured from comments gleaned from the 2001 Elon-Pew research project, "One Neighborhood, One Week on the Internet."

Results of the Q study revealed three types of Internet adopters and characterized their feelings about using the Internet. "Assimilators" absorb and incorporate the Internet into their thinking and lifestyle. "Convenience Users" seek instant gratification and move quickly on the Internet; they hop on to get what they want when they want it and then hop off. "Reluctant Users" prefer real-life experiences to the virtual ones offered on the Internet.

Q Methodology is a type of research that accomplishes the interpretive study of subjective behaviors without imposing the usual biases of structured survey questionnaires. One other strength of this form of research is that it can numerically classify the underlying philosophies, opinions and beliefs of a large group through the measurement of a small group. Thus, the sample group of 40 was actually a significant number of participants.

Lee, the chief author of this paper, has had a number of Q studies published. He also presented work from this particular piece of research at the 17th annual meeting of the ISSSS in the fall of 2001.

During spring semester 2002 he taught students in his Senior Seminar class about Q methodology, and the students completed Q studies of their own on a number of topics.

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