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Stanford launches new academic journal on IT and society

Almost one-third of an average adult American's day is spent with electronic devices that did not exist a century ago, says political science Professor Norman Nie. For most working adults, that translates into spending more than half of their leisure time watching television, listening to the radio, talking on the telephone or using the Internet.

To better understand the implications of how the current technological revolution is changing society, the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society (SIQSS) and the University of Maryland's Internet Scholars Program today jointly launched a new academic journal titled IT&Society. The free quarterly online journal, available at, will promote interdisciplinary discussion on research related to the Internet. It is funded by SIQSS and the University of Maryland.

"Until now, there has been no single location where scholars from different disciplines can write and exchange views on the impact of technology on society," says Nie, a co-editor of IT&Society and director of SIQSS.

John Robinson, professor of sociology at the University of Maryland and director of the university's Internet Scholars Program, is co-editor of the journal. He has written several books about the use of time and the quality of life.

The inaugural issue of IT&Society is devoted to how the Internet affects human social behavior. It contains 20 articles from leading international figures in the field who were invited to submit their findings, says Sunshine Hillygus, a political science doctoral student and a senior research assistant at SIQSS. Previously, according to Hillygus, research on the Internet was published in a range of journals in fields such as communications or sociology, which were not widely read by scholars focusing on information technology. "This is the first interdisciplinary journal," Hillygus says. "Instead of people talking past one another, this brings the research together so they can build on each other's work. We want to take the research to the next level." Plans include turning IT&Society into a refereed journal by next year, Nie adds.

In the first issue, research by Nie and Hillygus finds that "Internet use at home has a strong negative impact on time spent with friends and family as well as time spent on social activities, while Internet use at work has no such effect. Similarly, Internet use during weekend days is more strongly related to decreased time with friends and family and on social activities than Internet use during weekdays."

Other research in the journal appears to disagree with these findings, which, according to Nie, is characteristic of an emerging research field. It reinforces the need for a peer-reviewed journal, he says.

Another article by co-editor Robinson and J. Merrill Shanks, a political science professor at the University of California-Berkeley, finds that Internet users report more attendance at religious services than non-users, although that does not hold for the heaviest users. In addition, the research notes that increased Internet use is consistently associated with people having less sex mainly among married people aged 18 to 35 years.

Hillygus says the journal is aimed at academics but also will be of interest to policy-makers and general Internet users. Publishing the journal online will allow the latest research to be disseminated as soon as it becomes available. Future issues will deal with psychology, sociology and economics. According to Nie, specific subjects may include focusing on the future of the workplace as society becomes saturated with broadband technology, enabling more people to work at home; and how the phenomenon of oppression has been altered by access to information technology.


By Lisa Trei

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