Study Finds Disinterest in Web 2.0 and Tech-Gadget Remorse

Only a small percentage of people take full advantage of the range of expression afforded by Web 2.0 technologies, according to a Pew Internet & American Life Project report.
The promise of modern information technology remains largely unfulfilled in America, thanks to a populace that remains dominated by the disinterested, the daunted, and the dissatisfied.

Despite the fact that 85% of American adults use the Internet or cell phones, and most of those use both, only 8% avail themselves of the range of expression afforded by Web 2.0 technologies, according to a new report released on Sunday by the non-profit Pew Internet & American Life Project.

These Omnivores, as John B. Horrigan, associate director at the Pew Internet Project and author of the report calls them, participate in blogging, online content sharing, and remixing.

Two other groups identified by the report, similarly small in size, appear to be happy with technology: Connectors (7%) and Productivity Enhancers (8%). Connectors are heavy users of mobile phones and the Internet who embrace the high-tech lifestyle to collaborate and pursue hobbies. Productivity Enhancers are like minded, expressing positive views about communications technology in their personal and professional lives.

Not everyone who uses the Internet and associated gadgets is so sanguine about the experience, however. Two groups in particular, Lackluster Veterans (8%) and Connected But Hassled (10%), Horrigan describes as having tech-gadget remorse. "They have more than a fair share of digital appliances," he said. "But they aren't all that satisfied with the flood of information or pervasive connectivity comes along with these communication goods and services."

Lackluster Veterans were among the Internet's early adopters and while they remain active Internet users, they're not enthusiastic about cell phones. The Connected But Hassled segment has lots of technology, like broadband at home, but resents the burden of constant connectivity and information overload.

As the report points out, higher levels of education do not correlate with higher levels of technology enjoyment. "The Lackluster Veterans group has a high share of people with college degrees, but also a large share of people reporting information overload and stress from managing their technology gadgets," the report says.

To this pair of disaffected tech users, add the 49% of the U.S. adults who just don't see the point of all this communication and connectivity. These groups -- Inexperienced Experimenters (8%), Light But Satisfied (15%), Indifferents (11%), and Off the Network (15%) -- don't care much for information technology.

The report doesn't offer much to console sellers of PCs, mobile phones, iPods, and the like about their future prospects except to say the young represent a more receptive set of potential customers. "[T]wo of the four tech-oriented groups have a higher-than average percentage of members who are full- or part-time students," the report says.

That suggests two possible strategies for Web 2.0 startups to increase the number of non-students using their Web services and gadgets: Simplify their offerings and make their value proposition clear so that time-constrained, techno-phobic skeptics recognize the necessity of activities like Twittering. Or hope the funding lasts until the naysayers die off.

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Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer