Statement of Problem

Rationale and Research Questions




Rationale and Research Questions 

      When considering the theoretical perspectives that encompass web communication, this research looked at one example of a completed work dedicated to determining the effectiveness of military web sites. A survey directed to webmasters, was conducted by the Directorate of Information Management (DOIM), at Fort Riley, Kansas, in October 1999, to gather historical and logistical information about military web sites (see appendix one). 
       This study queried webmasters from ten military installations within Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), using a telephone survey. During this survey, installation webmasters were asked to describe their web site operation and its effectiveness. Interviews were non-structured and later analyzed for consistent themes in an attempt to answer and provide suggestions in reference to the logistical aspect of maintaining a web site. 
       Resulting data showed that two installations felt there was enough personnel to adequately manage the web sites. In both cases, each installation had one full-time person working on the Internet, as well as a full-time employee to work the intranet. One installation was in the process of establishing a full-time webmaster position. Three of the ten installations reported that they did not have full-time personnel dedicated to web communication.
       Additionally, eight of the ten installations do not presently have people dedicated full-time to webmaster and web administrator positions.  Eight of the ten installations felt there was inadequate staffing to effectively manage the web sites (i.e., ineffective in policing, updating, and managing the existing information on the web site). 
       As a result of the reduced personnel strength available, eight of the ten installations gave individual units and activities more responsibility to create and maintain web sites. This has resulted in a lack of consistency in appearance, quality and style of information, and seriously degraded overall site navigation.
       The DOIM at Fort Riley concluded that a fundamental principle of good web design is that a web site should appear the same from page to page, and navigation should be standard and predictable throughout the site. FORSCOM web sites are deteriorating into a collection of incongruous web pages in design, architecture, navigation and content. It would appear more resources and centralized development of web sites at the installation level are required to ensure a quality web site at each installation.
       Based on this initial study, this research looks to answer the following research questions through the theoretical perspective of Chaos, Uses and Gratifications and Agenda-setting theories:
       RQ 1: What is the purpose and value of web communication via web sites? 
       In considering previous research done with the private sector and the amount of available government information online, another question is raised:
        RQ2: Have the Armed Forces been effective in presenting information to the user through Internet communication via web sites?
       What if, through further studies, it is proven that the military has not met its purpose of presenting information via web communication, or if it has, it has not been done effectively? To ensure this does not happen, the Air Force proposal could be imposed DoD wide leading to yet another question:
        RQ3: What concerns would exist if DoD took primary control of all its web sites?
       This research conducted a survey of all DoD webmasters in an attempt to answer these questions.