Date of Award

8-1999

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Communication

Major Professor

Benjamin Bates

Committee Members

Herbert Howard, Barbara Moore, Thomas Ladd

Abstract

This study investigates the relatively new uses of the Internet by television fans for keeping up with their favorite television programs and for interacting with other fans through on-line channels of interpersonal communication. A distinction is made between traditional television fans and a newly emerging segment of the fan population that routinely uses the Internet to supplement the viewing of their favorite television program. The name cyber-fan is used to describe this savvy and innovative member of television fandom.

The study was designed within a uses and gratifications framework in an effort to specifically observe the behavior of cyber-fans within the electronic fan culture of the Internet. A web-based survey was designed and administered via the Internet during the three and a half-week period from October 13 to November 3, 1998. A total of 3,041 respondents participated in the study. The large majority of the respondents were female (64.5%).

Several hypotheses were tested in an effort to explore potential relationships between television viewing involvement and interpersonal communication activity via the Internet. The three television involvement variables were favorite program affinity, parasocial interaction and post-viewing cognition. The three interpersonal communication variables were Internet affinity, interactivity, and interpersonal communication satisfaction. Statistically significant and positive associations were identified between interactivity and parasocial interaction (r = .339, p < .01), interactivity and interpersonal communication satisfaction (r = .750, p < .01), post-viewing cognition and interactivity (r = .331, p < .01), post-viewing cognition and interpersonal communication satisfaction (r = .312, p < .01), parasocial interaction and interpersonal communication satisfaction (r = .357, p < .01), and parasocial interaction and post-viewing cognition (r = .692, p < .01).

In addition, mild to moderate associations were found between several instrument television viewing motives and one or more of the three television viewing involvement measures. The study also found that the authors of television fan pages were more interactive in their on-line interpersonal communication with others then subjects who had not created their own personal fan site. Several significant differences were also observed between the male and female segments of the sample population. Females were found to be more interactive in their on-line interpersonal communication activity than males. They also demonstrated a higher degree of involvement with their favorite television programs then did their male counter-parts. The study also produced a great deal of preliminary exploratory data on television and Internet uses by cyber-fans for extending their involvement with their favorite television programs.

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