Individuals Depending On Computers

By: Phill Gahem

The research to this point had revealed that various professionals believed in the existence of computer dependency and that a few American students described themselves as such. In order to discover whether any British computer users considered themselves to be dependent, efforts were made to contact and talk to them directly.

Although not wishing to extrapolate from a university population to a wider one, it seemed sensible at this stage of the research to enlist the cooperation of students. They were available, and earlier discussions with the staff of the computer centre at Loughborough University indicated that there were a few students on the campus who could be considered to be dependent upon computers. Five such students were contacted and interviewed.

The aim of the interviews was to investigate the students' computing habits and attitudes to see if these bore any relationship to the opinions offered by the literature, and to discover whether the students considered themselves to be dependent upon computers. The interviews also covered such topics as schooling and academic achievement, hobbiesand interests, together with details of their family and social lives. The initial investigations implied that computer dependency arose either as an escape from social contact or was a contributory factor towards it, and the interviews aimed to throw some light on these theories by examining the personalities and needs of the students through self-report. No detailed research was undertaken at this stage, and because of the small and biased nature of this sample no standardized personality tests were used.

These first interviews yielded considerable qualitative data. Very simple content analysis carried out on the results indicated that there were numerous similarities between these five students, not only in their computing habits but also in other aspects of their lives. This was perhaps hardly surprising as they were all male, of much the same age, and were studying for degrees at a university of technology. However, their responses did indicate that they exhibited many of the characteristics previously ascribed to computer dependency in the literature.


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