A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of State University of New York at Buffalo in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of Communication
July 9, 2003
The Internet has dramatically changed human communication. This new technology lets people create and receive messages simultaneously. Within the interaction of online activities, virtual communities are formed. In these virtual collaborative environments, community members can gratify their different needs. These needs are often categorized as cognitive and affective, and people employ or avoid different activities to satisfy them.
This study follows the theory of uses and gratifications to probe the motives for user participation in the electronic Bulletin Board System (BBS). User participation may be observable or obscured. The invisible users, who never or infrequently utter postings in public spaces, are called lurkers; they are important subjects and should not be neglected. To include all kinds of BBS users, the current study administered a two-mode online survey consisting of email and webpage questionnaires.
The survey's findings suggest that a higher level of affective gratification and a lower level of internal avoidance are indicative of more articles posted or replied to in the public domain. Additionally, alternative communication methods beside public participation are investigated to see whether gratification can be achieved.