Employing the uses & gratification theory, this article seeks to understand what kind of content Internet users produce through personal web pages. Zizi Papacharissi, well-known for her work on the interplay between society and new media technologies, looks at how personality influences the structure and discourse of users’ home pages. Her research methods include an online survey of web page authors sampled from Yahoo, GeoCities, America On Line (AOL) Hometown, Microsoft Network (MSN) Home Pages, and EarthLink, and a content analysis of respondents’ websites.
Papacharissi’s research revealed that the need for entertainment and information are the most frequent reasons for hosting a web page. Self-expression and communication were also mentioned by respondents, while professional advancement and passing time represented less salient motivations. Data collected indicate that the Internet can indeed “extend our social horizons” (363). Furthermore, the persons who are not particularly satisfied with their lives (lack professional achievements, feel estranged towards their family or friends etc) tend to use the Internet the most, relying on their personal pages for entertainment, but also for self-expression - a need to “vent online or to speak and address others in ways that were not available offline” (364).
If read in isolation, the article offers an interesting and well-researched account of people’s motivations for building personal web pages, but its scope stops here. However, if read in conjunction with works that explore the catalyzing potential of online environments, or the role of the Internet in developing social capital ties for its users, the article becomes a much more valuable resource, which contributes at understanding human interaction with new technologies.