1.1 Overview of Chapter
There are three clear aspects that underwrite internet
shopping under review. Firstly that many companies believe by converting a
process using technology that it becomes more successful. Automatic acceptance
that establishing internet presence achieve sales, without in-depth research is
a prime example of technological determinism. Secondly the relationship to how
a consumer behaves and interacts within internet shops, what elements effect
their decisions and define their final results (O’Cass, 2002). Finally there is
an aspect based upon social communication systems, in how they are transformed
by their use on the internet. An understanding of the foundation of the
internet is also required to set the scene into which these various aspects are
1.2 Foundation of the Internet
In order to understand internet shopping the
foundations of the technology and the reasons for its development need to be
understood. While the World Wide Web (WWW) is a relatively new idea, commencing
in the 1980’s the foundations of it can be traced to the work of people like Vannevar
Bush in the 1930’s and 1940’s (Bush, 1945). Bush was mainly concerned with the
logistics of vast amounts of statistical data and saw his role being
overwhelmed in the future. His idea was to extend human capacity for the storing
and retrieval of information through mechanistic augmentation. This information
was to have a linking / indexing technology and was later developed into hypertext.
Douglas Engelbart attributed his work on hypertext to Bush’s concept of “Memex”
(Engelbart, 1962). Using hypertext Tim Berners-Lee was able to develop linking
pages of information at CERN which was the first internal net (Berners-Lee,
1989). Throughout its development and application the internet provided ways to
store, disseminate and share information which supported various centred human
1.3 Technological Determinism
There is a notional level where technology
creates an absolute route to a desired conclusion. This determination surmises
a benign, logical process or system which creates processes and control
mechanisms free from random, illogical and uncontrolled influences (McLoughlin,
1999). However while an idealised perfect use of technology may create such an
operation its use by people automatically creates random, illogical and
1.3.1 Foundation of Commercial Computing
During the initial development of computers
certain decisions were made that had a profound influence upon all future
computer based technologies (Naughton, 1999). Land (1999) describes how the
cost of transaction processing time was very high due to the initial data
having to be aggregated to suit the formats of available computer languages.
The cost of initial data preparation was absorbed into human time which was
then far cheaper than computer time. In this relationship humans were subsumed
to basic data conversion for input/output tasks, while the computer carried out
complex data analysis tasks. In this definition of interaction, each component
operates by predefined tasks which enable a cost effective mode of computing.
This was set and operated within one social, hardware and software timeframe.
However, this deterministic philosophy has, since the 1950’s, become embedded
in computer design and commercial usage culture.
1.3.2 Commercial Computing and the Internet
Commercial companies have since the 1940’s, with
the development of the J. Lyons computer (Land, 1999), been using technology to
augment business processes. Their priority was the analysis of data to cut costs
and maintain a competitive advantage, through supply chain management (SCM)
systems. Multiple supply routes, manufacture, distribution and sales are
responsive along a closed cyclic system with each other. Further developing of this
cyclic process involved localised data entry and the development of network
solutions (Laudon and Laudon, 2004). Because
of this previous experience companies developing into the open market system of
the internet were unprepared for a sophisticated user group able to shop
1.3.3 Internet Statistics
Statistics are a cornerstone of many commercial
activities especially product sales which are augmented by market forces
studies, demographic and product focus groups. These studies create past,
present and forecast data for statistical and descriptive strategic planning (Evans,
2000). It is to prove return on investment (ROI) that many deterministic data
review methods have been used in relation to internet shopping. In internet
shopping the use of retrospective data is uniform and is based upon past clicks,
page views and cookies that sample user information.
1.3.4 Data Mining and Information Foraging
Existing retrospective statistic based methodologies
produce results that use data mining or information foraging techniques to
reflect upon what has happened on websites. They do this in an attempt to
forecast which elements of a website lead to users making purchases and which
elements do not. The resultant data suggests ways to increase conversion from
browsers to buyers by improved linking between websites elements. These systems
rely upon information foraging and web data mining techniques, to predict
optimal relationships between data and page locations. They often use complex
mathematics to create algorithms intended to describe patterns of use, access
routes and cue to activity (Chi, et al.
2000). The concept of Information Scents, suggests that users decide on their
course of action based upon cues, which derive behavioural patterns of
interaction then form guide routes. This formalised process lacks input from
either cognitive processes or cultural human contexts.
1.3.5 Use of Data and Information
The Cognitive Walkthrough of the Web (CWW) has attempted
to marry information scent with cognitive processes (Blackmon, et al. 2002). Recognition is however
given that different user populations produce different results and no testing
was done in this area. The Bloodhound Project sought to create automated,
usability and accessibility reviews based upon InfoScent™ (Chi, et al. 2003). The project attempts to
formulate a clear method showing consistent, measurable elements that provide
benefit in the form of usability inspection tools for designing websites. These
ways of interpreting website data have not been supported by the commercial
usability community. They rather believe that the results are synonymous with a
specific type observation of users seeking information. This deceptive
description of informational routes is stated regardless of where the user finds
what they are looking for (Nielsen, 2004). However User Centred Design (UCD) also
uses the notion of mapped routes of activity which are intrinsic to inspection
and usability developments in by consultants (Lazar, 2001). While there is a
conflicting view of how to interpret this data, clients continue to have the
problem with accessing “actionable statistics” (Foley, 2001) for
businesses decisions. Additionally while consultant’s methods of measurement
remain opaque, they will have their veracity questioned (Rosenfield, 2001). Both
of these are highly limited expressions of human interaction as they lack any deep
understanding of why these actions were taken. No understanding of human intention,
for product purchase can be observed through this data.
1.4 Consumer Behaviour and Interaction
A common description of interaction is, we are
what we do, but this depends upon what is measured. This limited view of people
is supported by those who use website statistical data to determine
interaction, yet is it this simple to understand people? An understanding of
cognitive functions, desires, experiences and the purpose of activities offers
characterisation to establish measurable dimensions in internet shopping.
1.4.1 Cognitive Functions in Interaction
Human cognitive functions in the area of interaction
considered in this project rely upon several types of input. These include desire
or drivers on a contextual basis unaffected by usability issues but defined by
consumer traits (Perea, et al. 2004).
Inputs also come from experiences in personal / social and commodity / product relationships
which create biographical templates (Kopytoff, 1986). Inputs are derived from
current activity as a form of self narrative (Flanagan, et al. 1998) and related to a specific time frame. Finally there
are inputs that describe aspirations and goals (Hutchins, 1995). These inputs drive
choices and decision activity prior to new actions and act as a description of
cognitive engineering (Long and Dowell, 1998). Additionally they establish a
personalised framework for the characterisation of success, error and failure
in complex tasks. Ultimately a formal measurement of interaction is needed, as
a process rather than just a destination (Green and Petre, 1996). In the
interim the term narrative enables an interpretation and review of real time
1.4.2 Desires and Drivers
To start activity some form of catalytic
reason, desire or drive is required. Not only does this define the activity but
it determines aspects of how it progresses and describes a condition of success.
This initiator can be based upon environmental factors including other people, society,
places or environments and systems which may be attributed or conferred upon
the user. These catalysts then operated in
a multi-dimensional framework that can be influenced by many factors.
1.4.3 Biographical Templates
User’s experiences inform their attitude and
response to stimuli. In the case of gender, women have in the past twenty years
created their own digital divide gaining on and overtaking men in the accessing
and utilising of internet shopping (Ono and Zavodny, 2003). This can be seen as
an iteration of female shopping experience accessing a new channel. However as
the process evolved over considerable time additional factors should be
considered. Human physical, emotional and experiential activity maintains a
biographical element through significant moments or indices. These indices
create biographical competencies that relate success, failure, frustration and
many other emotions to activity in social, mechanical and technological
environments. As a construct that determines choice, a biography (Appadurai, 1988),
(Kopytoff, 1988) is superimposed upon objects or commodities defining where
they have been, how they have been changed by external factors and proposing
trajectories and possible blockages. Activity is obscured by many external
factors including historical, political or social conventions. Biographical
notation enables the salient understanding of information that would otherwise
be lost. The understanding of human interaction can be viewed as participation
in the creation of personal historical elements having both biographical and
active elements. The cultural disposition of technology, interactions and
resultant pathways remain difficult to interpret without recourse to an
activity framework. A method is then required to relate the electronic media
habitus to external attributable counterpoints.
1.4.4 Temporal Narratives
Narratives allow the recording of active
elements in internet shopping, which describe responses to information in
numerous potential trajectories (Jennings, 2005). While this narrative can be
characterised through a think aloud protocol (Ericsson and Simon, 1980)
representations of this discourse establish the foundations of individual
drives towards action (Nakhimovsky, 1988). Effective mapping can be achieved
using a lexical approach (Gulrajani, 2003) as associated with recovering
endangered languages. This would allow the use of rational linguistic descriptions
of dimensions including orthography, morphology, syntax and semantics. The
creation of a lexical basis (Pustejovsky, 1991) makes individual actions
expressible aspects of groups of actions (Flanagan, 1998) with related
compound, processed and adaptive meanings.
Goals can be a descriptor of predetermined
final destinations or may offer a general context rather than a specific, “I’m
looking for a book” as opposed to “I’m looking for this book”. The general
interpretation of an open and untamed (Benyon, et al. 2005) source of information like the World Wide Web (WWW)
requires a systematic review of actions. Actions and user activity in relation
to an observable world require a common representation to determine navigation,
related target acquisition or goals (Jul and Furnas, 1997). These goals can
subsequently be reduced to a form of knowledge morpheme. As an inter-related
sub-rationale unit “the item I seek”, the goal then would have a distinct and
finite form. In seeking to achieve these goals, adaptations have been established
by reduction or addition “the item I seek is not available in red” so to gain
my item, “I will take it in black”.
Adaptation allows the extension of narratives creating
alternative experiences on the same object or situation (Nakhimovsky, 1988).
Further modifications can be made in a process of use, where adversity produces
redirection. Often activity adversity is characterised by choices in terms of
“satisficers and maximizers” (Schwartz, 2004) too little or too much information
causing sensory deprivation or overload. In these cases activity may cease
through this adversity or be directed to an alternative source of information
Conventions allow the creation of index points
in a narrative activity where rule systems have affected internet activity
(Flanagan, et al. 1998). Agreement of
conventions in social, emotional and commercial arenas for completion, enable a
measurable resolution to tasks. Social conventions are considerably more
complex that is possible to iterate in this project. It is difficult to
externally characterise an individual’s success, error and failure except by
some imposed system. Error and failure to fulfil planned system objectives in
human related systems is inevitable (Hutchins, 1995). Commercial conventions
have been integrated into internet shopping design.
1.5 Social Communication Systems
Gaining cognition of interaction relies not
only upon what is done but to discern what is intended. The study of shopping
is associated with sociology, cultural theory and research (Miller, 2001). Miller
discloses a highly complex process and is reactive to social, environmental,
ethical and economic contexts. There are similarities between the results of
offline shopping and online shopping, in the transfer of a product or services
for payment. However these processes are not exactly the same and operate
differently from each other.
1.5.1 Social Conventions and Signs
Conventions create a common acceptable process for activity allowing social constructs like chatting with friends to transcend their normal ecosystem. They can then interpose themselves, with modifications upon new environments and media. Obvious modifications in chat rooms involve not seeing people’s faces, observing intonation in vocal patterns and confirmation of identity. These elements allow the building of a picture explaining no just where activity is, but also what is acceptable in this area.
1.5.2 Social Mediation
Mediation is developed as a process to
amalgamate and morph interfaces. In the case of a chat room, mediation is
approved form of language, including slang like “lol” meaning laugh out loud.
Changes operation by talking through a keyboard, how the experience is visualised
and environment of public conversation from a private location are mediated by
software and existing social constraints. Where the mediator gains a pivotal
role in any transaction its affect is continually present, thought how it
mediates is not necessarily visible (Dourish, 2001).
1.5.3 Commodities, Circulation and Exchange
Our cultural values have been modified by
access to information sources through the internet that were not previously
available. The “way things are used” has been transformed into commodity in its
own right rather than just what is used (Appadurai, 1988). For example; buying
chocolates for a friend in another country over the internet allows a purchase
from their local store. This shows the commodity process of purchase,
extraneously from seeking information and looking at products. Where new aspects
of commodities are implied there are changes in the ways thing circulate. Who
has access to these items? What is their intention? Questions like this then
become critical as recognisable terms of social regulation and acceptable
behaviour become opaque. This further influences society redefining aspects of
exchange, as now anyone can get an item, regardless of social standing or
There is a complex relationship between
consumption and “individual choice set within a market structure” (Miller,
1998). Simply because an item is
available as an option or choice it is not implicit that it will be consumed.
Rather other external factors describe consumption. Before the internet simple
elements like consumption and redemption changed from barter with avatars like
money or credit. These symbols of value have the potential to be interpreted or
misinterpretation, unless linked to specific results. Other factors enable the
distortion of the process by intervention through perceived or imposed social
or legal conventions.
1.5.5 Trust and Legalities
The internet has created a dynamic relationship
with users through immediate access to information; however the normal or
primary social mannerisms that can be tested through a face to face transaction
do not exist. Without the capacity to determine the truth of information gained,
secondary clues are required (Chong and Liu, 2000). The nature of trust and
legal recourse on the internet is a matter of great concern yet there is
limited research to determine what factors create these aspects in internet
shoppers. Other factors that engender trust in offline shopping include privacy
(Miller, 1998). Privacy concerns will be a defining aspect of consumer
confidence and company profitability (Prabhaker, 2000) in the future.
1.6 Human Computer Interaction
HCI has its basis in sociological philosophies
and academic research (Benyon and Imaz, 1999). HCI has evolved around interface
design in effect dealing with problematic interfaces that were produced due to
subsuming of humanity to a secondary element in the computation processes. In a
recent keynote lecture Alistair Sutcliff from University of Manchester suggested
that HCI should “pillage any discipline with theories we can use” (Sutcliff,
2005) this underlying focus on importation poses questions regarding the state
of HCI theories and their capacity to comment upon research.
1.6.1 HCI Theories
A variety of theoretical approaches exist that
attempt to characterise HCI (Sutcliffe, et
al. 1991) but a full definition remains elusive as its context involves
evolutionary elements. HCI is constantly developing as new research becomes
available for review. HCI as a product of research (Long and Dowell, 1989) is
defined by its own title and constantly seeks to define this relationship by
various forms of computer interface. However this project is more focused on
the interaction element. Interaction is a combination of human and computer
where the starting point is humans. As with most other HCI studies
consideration is made to human factors for initial affects upon the character
of a study population. However this project goes deeper into aspects of user
demographics in relation to activity.
Diagnostic methods of review (Smith, 2005) like grounded theory do not predispose research data acquisition or review method. It suggests an emergent form of theory choice, by what fits the results (Glaser, 1967). Emergent review of data fundamentally differs from a hypothesis testing as it creates a theory from the available result data. This kind of theoretical base is quite compelling when faced with so many potential theories to examine and review human interaction data. Interaction mediates in the process where human physical, emotional and experiential activity correlates to a machine world (Jul and Furnas, 1997). This counterpart machine world displaces recognised liner actions (Wegner, 1997) shown through data with parallel activity in new systems. This further requires a need to understand both constructs relative to one another. Recent ideas of embodied interaction suggest this context of real and mechanical / electronic world as a unifying characteristic of separate domains. “Embodied interaction” poses the idea that embedded tangible and social computing systems define their meaning from their context rather than the parts that create them. This is a central theme in understanding interaction. Thematic approaches afford an elemental view of interaction drawing from many disciplines rather than seeing hierarchies in theoretical relevance (Dourish, 2001). Rather than a forced acceptance of one methodology over another a unification of activity theories and practice offers a valuable and functional appraisal of activity. While embodied interaction aligns many disciplines there remains a lack of relevant interlaced underpinned conceptual and philosophical work (Sutcliffe, et al. 1991). Several associated theories have attempted to capitalise upon this situation by trying overwriting HCI with more recognisable commercial theories (Kuutti, 1995) like Activity Theory. This situation has evoked a process of reflection upon the fundamental basis of this arena of science.
1.6.2 Scientific Foundation of HCI
HCI attributes its basis to scientific process,
theoretical forms and systematic methods. The primary underlying philosophy of
science is logic through progressive selection, review and interpretation of
data. Formalised modern logical
philosophy is derived through Aristotelian logic as defined by Plato’s review
of Socrates understandings of his mentor (Plato, 372BC) in western societies.
1.6.3 Socratic Logic
Socratic logic or the Socratic Method involves
a dialogical process operating through reduction. An initial hypothesis is made
then contradictions are observed which are used to steadily undermine and modify
the original hypothesis. An example of Socratic logic is statistics where data
that falls within specific boundaries or fences is accepted and outer fence or
outlier data is removed. Provided a justification for removal is stated little
consideration is given to the potential loss of perspective and the morphing of
results through distorted windows of interpretation. While this logical process
creates definitive results the capacity to relate this information back into
real world environments is questionable in the same way that a picture once
reduced, when re-enlarged cannot be exactly reconstituted but loses its
smoothed edges. This is an example of data captured being lost by the
application of a Socratic logical philosophy which has been transformed into a
1.6.4 Dialectic Logic
In “Phänomenologie des Geistes” The Phenomenology of
Spirit or The Phenomenology of Mind in
English (Hegel, 1807) an alternative basis for logic is offered by Hegel where
a threefold approach of hypothesis is stated, an antithesis proposed and a
synthesis is created. While these terms are not directly attributed to Hegel
they are his legacy. This evolutionary process seeks to consider a
counter-proposition in relation to the proposed. By creating a question the desired trajectory
of research is set, however if the immediate response is to consider the
fallibility of the hypothesis then a more considered question, based upon
combination is possible.
1.6.5 Mechanistic vs. Humanistic Logic
Both Socratic and Hegelian logic have derivative
philosophies which have affected perceptions of humanity and create datum’s
that guide theoretical developments. These theoretical developments can then be
associated through the philosophies of Socrates / Bourdieu, deterministic subordination and Hegel / Marx open
system materialism. Socratic / Bourdieu logic and social theoretic forms
observe deterministic absolutes. Bourdieu determined that a society’s structure
is defined by cultural and social inequality, which pervades all forms of
interaction (Bourdieu, 1990). This would be exemplified by an elite class
controlling access to new technology. Dialectic logic seeks to see a complex
relationship between concurrent processes. By maintaining a pragmatic view of
these theoretical ideologies and philosophies it is possible to present
inter-related propositions relating HCI to logical activity within a whole
unedited context. While Hegel / Marx reserve an organic logical form specific
to each interaction. Trotsky, Marx, Engels and Lenin modified Hegel’s dialectic,
though the only specific note of this was published after Engels death in
“Nature of Dialectics” (Engels, 1883) by
the removal of its idealistic orientation. Under Marxism Hegel’s dialectic
logic evolved into dialectic materialism, retaining its essential focus upon
contradiction. This would be exemplified by the recognition that immigrant
populations provide valuable assets in society, where the social atmosphere
might be chauvinistic. In an internet context, research that revealed outlier
data and contradictions would be included in the results. Methods of
measurement are intrinsic to scientific developments and enable provable and
repeatable theoretical works. In this manner survey based web metrics could be
considered to be the thesis; observed ethnographically derived data an
antithesis and a combination of these results the synthesis. The inclusion of contradictions and outlier
data in both forms of research would therefore maintain a holistic view of
1.7 Summary & Conclusion
The integration of informational aspirations
and commercial functionality in the WWW has created a melange of vying purposes
which remain prevalent in shopping website design. The change in status
associated with a shopper who becomes an internet shopper revolves around a
process of modification by action, environment, methods of acquisition and
appropriation. While similarities are used as procedural points or avatars
technological modifications produce diverse and untamed results more associated
with wicked problem solving (wicked and untamed) than logical progressions. There is a direct cultural relationship to the
way people utilise and react to internet technology.
The continuing battle between mechanistic
technological determinism and humanistic evolutionary theoretical forms remains
a central focus of our society, setting its aspirations and defining its
potentialities. These two competing forces have produced developments in both
our understandings of technology, its social impact and delineating the boundaries
of developments. The involvement of people in this process undermines any
deterministic view of interaction. If modifications in interaction are
characterised using Socratic logic, results that contradict the hypothesis
modify it, but they are lost in progressive changes and outlier data is not
reported. If both the acquisition and review of data follows dialectic logic
the initial hypothesis is kept. Each contradiction and outlier is noted as
antithesis, and then both hypothesis and antithesis are combined to create a
synthesis. It may be that dialectic thinking has been sidestepped due to its
association with Marxism. This affords an organic melding of ideas as opposed
the reductionism of the Socratic Method.
1.8 Design & Implementation
In the process of generating this review a lack of previous research about consumers thinking when using internet shops has been observed. As a consequence of this, a pilot study has been produced to find the questions that will elicit that information. Additionally who is asked is as much of a priority as what is asked. In this respect students are considered to have a technologically superior experience than the average consumer. This population group has not been the main source of data, but rather an open demograph has been employed. Extending the pilot study into a main study has depended upon this literature review and the pilot study results. Both research procedures have informed on key characteristic of structure, content and method of review. A counterpoint to these studies is needed to offer results that are balanced showing both local and remote data capture. The counterpoint study is based upon observation and recordings of interaction scenarios and interviews. Scenarios are often used in UCD to establish a user’s experience of an interface (Lazar, 2001). However in this case they were used to observe participants accessing both prior experience and in gaining new experiences, so that these processes could be compared. Secondly they were used to view differences between consumer users and heuristic user shopping. In this way consideration in given towards the technological experience of the participant and the effects that it may produce in the results. Dialectic logic has been used as the basis of data capture and review.
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The conclusions of this Study will follow soon.