and Research Questions
The Internet has revolutionized the communications
world like nothing before it. It has world-wide broadcasting capability,
provides a mechanism for information dissemination, and provides a medium
for collaboration and interaction between both individuals and groups that
are not geographically dependent (Leiner, Cerf, Clark, Kahn, Kleinrock,
Lynch, Postel, Roberts, & Wolff, 1998).
Prior to 1992, the Internet was
a research vehicle used primarily by a small community of academics. Since
that time, it has doubled in size every 12-18 months. In spite of system
complexity, significant learning curves and cost, its popularity grows.
The purposes and potential of the Internet is mind-boggling. It offers
vast amounts of specific information but its popularity goes beyond this.
It offers everything the telephone, the telegraph, and the television offer
plus the thrill of being connected. "There is the thrill of plugging into
an almost universal entity, a sense that one can access virtually anything,
can communicate effortlessly with other people across space and time" (Gackenbach,
Guthrie, & Karpen, 1998).
This project will investigate
the purpose and effectiveness of current military use of web sites as they
apply to web communication. To do this, research will detail the current
use of military sites through a survey of current Department of Defense
webmasters regarding their opinion of purpose and control by DoD of those
sites. Information from this research can be used to further study the
use of the web by the military and to obtain a better understanding of
what effective web sites include.
History of the Internet
The development of the Internet
was a response to a strategic problem posed to the American think tank,
the Rand Corporation, during the Cold War of the 1960's. How could the
government keep informed and maintain order in the United States after
a nuclear war, if conventional communications technologies were all destroyed?
The answer was to create a networked system with no central control--one
that was so redundant--it would not matter if part of it were destroyed.
Every node on the Advance Research Projects Agency (ARPANET) would be equal
to every other node in its ability to send, relay and receive messages.
Messages would be constructed as a number of coded and addressed packages
that would be sent to their destination by any route.
This concept suited the military
mandate, but was an engineering nightmare for AT&T. Telephone switching
technology had dedicated circuitry designed to carry only analogue signals
so the Department of Defense took the project to university researchers
where an Internet Protocol (IP) was developed that allowed computers to
connect to the network. Gateway computers would translate data from users
into a Net language for sending and retranslate the message back for receiving.
Since the early users were academics, their goal was to develop a network
for free and publicly shared information. Eventually, the university traffic
was so heavy that the military moved to a new network (Military Network)
(Gackenbach & Ellerman, 1998).
By 1986, Usenet (Unix User Network-connected
computers of students and faculty) was so large that administrators proposed
seven hierarchies of use: computers, miscellaneous, news, recreation, science,
society and talk. "The last of the groups, `talk' was designed as
a repository for all the unsavory, salacious, politically incorrect and
socially psychotic newsgroups that had appeared like banana slugs among
the Usenet flora” (Roland, 1997). This was the first attempt at censorship
because it enabled administrators to manage or censor the talk and resulted
in the "Great Renaming" (Gackenbach, & Ellerman, 1998). Subversion
tactics were used and alternate routing was created. It became obvious
to network administrators that they had no real control over the content
of the medium.
The World Wide Web (WWW) began
in March of 1989 due to the creation of universal standards by European
researchers. This technology created hypertext linking. Any word or phrase
in a message could be highlighted so that the coding behind it creates
a link. This hi-tech indexing systems allows for surfing the web for information
(Roland, 1997). Links coupled with browsers and search engines turned the
Internet into a mass medium. By 1990, the Internet was truly open to the
general public for business and pleasure. The individual had a voice.
Unlike radio and television, now ordinary people could construct their
own homepages, and announce their existence on the Web. On the Internet,
people could say what they wanted to at any time and be heard. The invention
of WWW and free browser technology precluded corporate or government domination,
or censorship (Roland, 1997).
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
McLuhan (1967) said, “The medium
is the message,” and this appears to be the case with the Internet. This
“message” of the Internet can be determined by the change of scale or pace
it introduces into human affairs. Web communication can be likened to the
railway system, which did not introduce movement or transportation as people
knew it, but accelerated previous human functions and created new cities,
work and leisure activities through this acceleration (McLuhan, 1967).
According to Gackenbach et al.
(1998) this acceleration of web communication is the connecting of all
individual computers into “one large world-wide computer.” With the
multi-media and virtual reality, people do not have to live, meet, or work
face to face to develop significant social relationships.
Goetzel (1998) compares the current
intrernet to the mind of a young child, and sees the future bringing maturity
to this infantile mind.
“Over the next decade, I believe we will see the evolution of the Net
into a full-fledged, largely atonomous, globally distributed intelligence
system. As this occurs we will see this Internet artificial intelligence
(AI) network wind itself further and further into human affairs, yielding
a synergetic, symbiotic global intelligent system, incorporating machine
and human intelligence into a single continuum of thought--a human--digital
Goetzel (1998) adds that the change
to come can be compared to the discovery of tools, language, or even civilization.
According to Goetzel (1998), those who are young today will be the first
generation ever to witness a major change in collective humanity. It will
lead to artificial intelligence (AI), which Goetzel (1998) states can only
come out of a large, complex, self-organizing system.
According to Goetzel (1998),
special programming is not the catalyst, but rather the special "core twist"
of intelligence. A complex system, skilled at recognizing patterns in its
environment, can turn inward and recognize patterns in itself, creating
circles and spirals of constructive self-recognition. The core of intelligence
cannot be imitated, but emerges from the statistical chaos of a large system
whose parts are working independently.
In determining a communication
perspective for the Internet, this research looks at Chaos, Uses and Gratification,
and Agenda Setting theories as a means of weaving together the intricacies
of this information medium.
With increasingly complex systems,
the synergistic collective behavior of the components of the Internet,
gives rise to increasingly sophisticated results. The science of complexity
has emerged from several disciplines to include mathematics, physics, biology,
and climatology. It is coined Chaos Theory and according to Russell (1995),
“complex systems have three basic characteristics: 1) quantity and diversity-the
system contains a large number of different elements: 2) organization-the
many components are organized into various interrelated structures: and,
3) connectivity-the components are connected through physical links, energy
interchanges, or some form of a communications link.”
According to Gackenbach, et al.
(1998), Chaos Theory can be applied to the study of the Internet in that
it has both elements required by the theory: complex architecture and behavior.
Complex architecture and behavior create two main impacts: great descriptive
power, and the liability of proper management and programming. When comparing
the workings of the Internet to the workings of the human brain, it can
be seen how Chaos Theory, and other theories interface, and how the Internet's
connectivity and interactive properties provide a new and powerful communication
responsibility. The brains flow of attention manifests from neural nets
which become hardwired by self-programming from what we learn from teachers,
parents, media, environment, etc. The flow of electronic information in
the Internet evolves from modeling our usage, our interests, and most basically,
our flow of attention. Both neural and electronic nets can know anything.
Just as the brain grows when it is exposed to new information, the Internet
grows and evolves to greater levels of organization (Gackenbach, et al.,
However, proponents of Chaos
theory would point out that "as it (the Internet) grows, it becomes more
adept at reflecting, representing and extending our patterns of attention,
and thus becomes a more powerful tool. This increased capability extends
our experience and power, thus changes our experience and thereby our attention
patterns (Gackenbach, et al., 1998).
Uses and Gratification theory
says the consumer is an active and discriminating user of the media (Littlejohn,
1996). This theory was first published in 1944 by Paul Lazarsfeld and states
that the focus of using the media changed the audience, or consumer, from
being inactive participants to active participants by having the choice
of what media the user selects for gratification (Infante, Rancer, &
Womack, 1997). The consumer is assumed to be goal-oriented, and is responsible
for choosing the specific medium that will meet a need at a certain point
in time (Littlejohn, 1996). Depending on the media that is chosen, the
consumer can then choose ways to gratify these needs from the options of
that particular medium.
Through further research of uses and gratifications, theorists
developed three main objectives. Infante, et al. (1997) explains that researchers
wanted to know how consumers use the media to gratify specific needs, what
were the underlying motives for the specific media use, and what were the
positive and negative consequences of choosing that specific media use
for personal needs. According to Rubin (1984), two types of television
viewers were identified; instrumental and ritualized (as cited in Infante,
et al., 1997).
The ritualized viewer uses the television
medium primarily out of habit. This medium is used more frequently, and
also used as a form of diversion (Infante, et al., 1997). The instrumental
viewers use the television medium mainly for information. These users are
more goal-oriented and selective than the ritualized user (Infante, et
When discussing the Internet as a medium,
these two types of television viewers can also be compared to Internet
users. Although it has yet to be proven, an “instrumental” Internet user
may be described as someone who uses the world wide web as a main source
of information. It could include not only news, but also banking services,
shopping on-line, and getting medical information. The “ritualized” user
of the Internet may have a hard time when resources such as email or list
server services are not available on demand. However, because of its infancy,
these cannot be concrete statements until further research is conducted
on Internet usage.
While exposure to the Internet initially may be a result of coincidence
or of mere curiosity about new technologies, continuous usage of the Internet
and web sites will likely disappear without great rewards or gratification
of the consumer (Eighmey, 1997). A recent pilot study compared the studies
of television programming and the audience rewards and gratifications to
the user rewards and gratifications of commercial web sites (Eighmey, 1997).
The study found that the benefits were similar between television and web
sites, and that there were great benefits to the Internet user because
of the interactive capabilities. According to Eighmey (1997), Internet
users were also attracted to information that is time period commensurate
with the value of that information.
Because the uses and gratifications
theory allows for a more active communicator, the audience, or consumer,
also then must make sense of its content (Rubin & Windahl, 1986).
What does this mean to the media? The agenda-setting theory now becomes
a concern for the consumer. The mass media sets the agenda of what the
public is to think about, but does not tell the public what opinions to
hold (Brosius & Weimann, 1996).
Agenda setting determines what issues are important and why others
are not; how and when the news will be reported to the public; how is the
public is influenced by the media agendas; and, does it affect public policy
(Dearing & Rogers, 1996). Media agenda-setting encompasses every influence
that affects the media’s content (Reese, 1991). By limiting and prioritizing
important issues, the media does have a powerful and pervasive effect,
no matter how indirect, on public opinion (Reese, 1991).
Agenda-setting theory says the media
purposely influences the consumer's attitudes and agendas. On the Internet,
the individual has the potential of immediately reacting to a message and
contributing to the effects of the message through interaction. Many times
the individual is the beginning and the end of the communication cycle
Based on the perspectives of Chaos,
Uses and Gratifications, and Agenda-setting theory, this research stands
to make the following assumptions:
Uses and gratifiactions theory states
that the public or consumer uses the media to satisfy certain needs and
which ever medium they choose to get reach that goal has served its purpose.
This research assumes that the consumer will use the Internet to satisfy
its needs through this new technology, an extension of media. Although,
according to the agenda-setting theory, it really doesn’t matter which
medium is used, the public will be fed only what the media wants to feed
the public. The public will think about what the media sets into play.
It does not, however, mean that the media tries to manipulate what the
public’s opinions and attitudes will be. That is strictly up to the consumer.
The assumption of this research is that the Internet will play a similar
role by placing on its web sites what it wants the consumer to think about
and/or shop for, etc.
Another assumption of this research
is that the complex architecture and behavior theorized in the Chaos Theory
could be utilized in military web communication through agenda-setting
practices. In this manner, web masters determine what information will
be posted and therefore presented to the public. The public then determines
what perception they hold of the military through the information presented.
A fourth assumption is that due
to the complexities of the Internet explained by the Chaos theory, web
masters need to focus information to the instrumental user, but still be
appealing to the ritualized user as explained through the perspective of
the uses and gratifications theory.
The Why of the Internet
The uniqueness of the Internet
and the capacity to send information through a medium that attracts virtually
everyone with access, has captured the attention of the government and
corporate America in a way that no other media has been able to. In his
1993 proposal on reengineering through information technology, Gore stated
that the government and private sector corporations must join together
to improve the nation’s information infrastructure. Government officials
carry more of this responsibility because it is government that produces
the systems and determines the policy for their use (Gore, 1993).
This consolidation of government
and private information technology can be obtained through the example
of France’s Minitel System. It was developed in the early 1980’s as a telephone
system, which the U.S. telecommunications sector has also adopted. In the
system of information, the federal government, as a potential customer,
could assist the private sector in stimulating development in information
systems (Gore, 1993).
Gore (1993) also explains that
access by the private citizen to the government will reduce the complexities
of the government system that is in place for the citizens. According to
Gore (1993), this reduction in complexity can be accomplished by government,
and private corporation partnerships, in order to implement ideas on information
technology for the future. Since 1993, government policy makers have determined
its purpose for the Internet and world wide web within the infrastructure
of the DoD (Hamre, 1998).
According to Hamre (1998), the
DoD understands the need for such a powerful medium, as the Internet, and
encourages military leaders to use this tool to convey information quickly
and efficiently in the areas relating to military activities, objectives,
programs, and policies. At the same time, Hamre (1998) also warns that
as the military uses this medium to present information to the American
public, leaders must also ensure the safeguard of national security. This
safeguarding procedure has led the DoD to establish specific purpose and
policy guidelines for military web administrators (Hamre, 1998).
In the private sector, companies
such as Mitsubishi are setting groundrules for integrating electronic technology
into everyday business. The goal of operational ease for the user is utmost,
so the user can in turn communicate more clearly with the company (Mitsubishi
Electric Global Home Page, 1999). According to Andelman (1996), the Internet
has become an on-line universe, which is joining the ends of the universe
together, through discussion on economy, politics, society, and even the
weather. Commerce has been the first to use the web as a means of bridging
the worldwide consumer market. The goal of the commerce department is to
use the Internet as a means of stimulating economic growth (Andelman, 1996).
The goal of operational ease for
the user and information growth for the organization, through the Internet,
has been a catalyst for government web administrators when designing government
web sites. As Gore (1993) stated, the government and private sector need
to build from each other in the information process. In the DoD Web Administrators
Policy, Hamre (1998) outlines the information posting process that attempts
to make information more readily available to the user. A key goal of information
posting for DoD is the identification of information that will most benefit
the user through web access, and at the same time, meet the objectives
According to Esrock and Leichty
(1998), most companies use the Internet to advance their own policies already.
This is in line with current DoD guidance for military web use (Hamre,
1998). Esrock and Leichty (1998) point out that 82 percent of the corporate
web sites address social responsibility issues, however, few used their
web sites as a means of monitoring public opinion on the issues presented.
This research shows that the Internet offers a new means of communication,
but the manner in which it is used has not changed much from traditional
methods of disseminating information (Esrock, & Leichty, 1998).
If the theories pertaining to the user
of the Internet hold true, then what is the future of the Internet as an
information highway connecting the public with government agencies, as
well as the private sector? Is there a limit to be placed on the
amount of access agencies allow the private citizen in this open information
market? With this idea of a complex medium for information, what rights
does the private citizen have in order to gain access to information?
The idea of private citizen rights
of access to the press, has been proven to be a First Amendment argument
through a series of Supreme Court cases. Even in 1969, the Supreme Court
determined it was necessary that the government and the private sector
give the private citizen access to information, and the best way to do
this at the time was through the free press (Gillmor & Barron, 1969).
According to Gillmor and Barron
(1969), information flow through the free press was an affirmative obligation
of the press and government to realize their responsibility to present
the contemporary life of ideas outside of the electronic media. In this
sense the courts would not be powerless in preventing public facilities
and the press from taking refuge in their approach to affirmative duty.
This new obligation given to the government and press first determined
the publics right of access to information (Gillmor & Barron, 1969).
The Administrative Procedure Act
of 1946 provided that federal agencies were to publish materials such as
opinion, orders and policy statements that did not contain information
that needed to be kept secret from public interest (Gillmor & Barron,
1969). In 1968 this act was revamped and called the Freedom of Information
Act, which specifically outlined information available to the public, and
information exempt from public scrutiny. Through this Act, the press has
gained access to information for public use (Gillmor & Barron, 1969).
Today, the Freedom of Information
Act not only pertains to information documented and placed in file drawers,
but also information that can be made instantly available to the public
through the Internet. Hamre (1998) states that it is the American democratic
process that allows citizens to know what the government is doing, and
have the opportunity to respond to the government. Citizens must also be
open to judge the performance of the government. Access to information
using the Internet and web allows this democratic process to flow.
According to Dorobek (1999), legislators
today are still enacting policy to put even more government documents on
line, such as lobbyist reports. This would create a new database available
to the public for viewing. Even after the Vice President voiced concerns
in 1993 that the government was not accessible to the public, many governmental
agencies still fight putting information on the web. Dorobek (1999) adds
that the top three government documents that citizens want to see on line
are Congressional Research Service reports, Supreme Court opinions and
briefs, and the State’s Daily Briefing Book.
Although web initiatives have
been directed by top policy makers (Gore, 1993), those who enact the policy
for the private citizens have fought new bills in Congress by saying it
is a cost to the taxpayer that the taxpayer does not want (Dorobek, 1999).
Policy makers insist the cost of maintaining these sites is too great to
invoke on the private citizen. Other lawmakers insist the private citizen
has a right to view their government regardless of cost (Dorobek, 1999).