The Reuters report of the National Technology Scan broke yesterday, but I had to chew on it a bit before deciding how many of my own commenting cycles to invest in it. Reuters released it with the headline: "Many Americans see little point to Web: survey." Close reading revealed that this was a somewhat distorted summary. Fortunately, the lead paragraph was a bit more sound:
A little under one-third of U.S. households have no Internet access and do not plan to get it, with most of the holdouts seeing little use for it in their lives, according to a survey released on Friday.
At least one of the details struck me as particularly interesting:
The response "I do all my e-commerce shopping and YouTube-watching at work" was cited by 14 percent of Internet-access refuseniks.
This one says as much about general current workplace attitudes as it says about the Internet playing a role at home, as well as at work. It probably requires a study of its own that is at least as comprehensive as the National Technology Scan; but that study is unlikely to get funded, since it may reveal too many "inconvenient truths." Then there is the 44 percent segment of "refuseniks" who just are not interested in what the Internet has to offer. Are these people living happy and fulfilled lives without the Internet; or are they avoiding it because it is so stress-inducing at work?
The best results are always those that point the way to the next round of questions to ask. However, it would appear that those responsible for the National Technology Scan do not see things quite that way:
"The industry continues to chip away at the core of nonsubscribers, but has a ways to go," said John Barrett, director of research at Parks Associates [which conducted the survey].
"Entertainment applications will be the key. If anything will pull in the holdouts, it's going to be applications that make the Internet more akin to pay TV," he predicted.
In other words the question is not one of happiness and how it is being pursued, so to speak, but of why there should be "holdouts." Even if they constitute less then one-third of the population, they are still holdouts, which is just a statistical euphemism for "unexploited market potential." This survey is not about life in the world the Internet has made but about how to draw in those who are not already "hooked" (chosen deliberately for its connotation) on the Internet.