INTERNET (Investigating new technology's evolving role, nature and effects for transport)

Project details

Full project title: INTERNET (Investigating new technology's evolving role, nature and effects for transport)

Sponsor: EPSRC (Future Integrated Transport LINK Programme)

Principal investigator: Professor Glenn Lyons

Principal researcher: Dr Susan Kenyon

Start date: January 2003

Finish date: April 2006

Project briefing sheet: Download the briefing sheet document

Project report: Download the final project report document

Project summary

The Internet has become an integral part of daily life for many in modern industrialised societies. Just over ten years after Netscape's Mosaic browser was made universally available for free which some commentators consider to be 'the dawn of the popular Internet'), two thirds of the UK adult population are Internet users. Everyday activities, from education and employment to shopping and participation in social networks, increasingly have the potential to be carried out (at least in part) online, without recourse to physical mobility by the individual undertaking the activity.

As Internet use changes our perceptions of accessibility, by weakening the traditionally strong links between activity, distance, place and time, questions regarding the impacts of Internet use for accessibility and thus activity participation and travel have been raised. This research explored these impacts of Internet use.

Diary study and national survey

The research involved a detailed longitudinal diary study of c.100 people with Internet access with participants recording their daily on-line and off-line activities for a 7-day period over three panel waves (at 6-monthly intervals). In parallel a two-wave (2003 and 2006) national survey of c1000 individuals was carried out.

The diary study revealed the following findings:

  • there was no evidence to support a link between physical mobility and virtual mobility;
  • there was no evidence to suggest a negative effect of virtual mobility for sociability;
  • virtual mobility can provide a viable alternative to physical mobility in reducing aspects of mobility-related exclusion; and
  • the research confirmed the importance of multitasking for the understanding of travel behaviour, Internet use and activity participation.
The national survey added many complementary findings including:
  • the indication of a clear trend of increasing amounts of Internet use;
  • evidence of a changing acceptance of the Internet with its increased (cultural) prevalence and (individual) use over time;
  • a substantial minority of respondents suggesting (perceiving) their travel has decreased as a result of Internet use;
  • between a third and a half of respondents suggesting travel-related factors influence their decisions to participate in activities online rather than offline;
  • the majority of respondents suggesting no effect of Internet use upon sociability with a substantial minority reporting positive effects; and
  • between a third and a half of respondents suggesting that the ability to multitask influences their decision to do activities online.

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