All societal systems, including military organizations, government agencies and corporate entities, must evolve and adapt to flourish, or at time, survive. The individuals or groups that lead these systems sometimes choose to rely on the one-step flow model of communication, in which the mass media channels communicate directly to the mass audience. According to Troldahl (as cited by Rogers & Shoemaker, 1973), the result is that the message does not reach all receivers equally, and it does not have the same effect on each. An organization that does not fully utilize all means of communications to get its message across to the members of its social system demonstrates a lack of thorough research into the way some people receive and spread information.
This deficiency can be remedied by learning more about the ways members of a social system use mass media to gather information. Descriptive research can be used to describe or compare individuals, events, or groups, and what motivates them. Thompson S. H. Teo (1997) conducted a study to examine Internet usage patterns and factors affecting an enjoyable Internet experience among more than 1,300 people. The respondents were categorized according to occupation and level of knowledge of information technology (IT). Most Internet users in this study were males under 30 years of age, a demographic which mirrors the military population. Teo utilized previous research that investigated the evolution and diffusion of the Internet, the Internet as a strategic tool, and the use of the Internet for education and research.
Uses and gratifications must be incorporated into web page design. As cited in Teo (1997), Internet users feel web pages should have up-to-date information, customized data for the visitor, and be well-designed and pleasing to the eye. These were all deemed important factors leading to an enjoyable Internet experience. Gimmicks such as Java applets and sound were rated as less important, but video and animation were rated as more important Internet features.
What a person believes a medium can provide affects the evaluation of the message from that medium. Using uses and gratifications theory, it can be assumed that the initial lack of DoD web pages had an effect on service members' first reaction and evaluation of the anthrax vaccination program. In addition, diffusion of innovation theory suggests that if DoD had created a web page before the anthrax program was announced and had it ready to launch at announcement time, service members could have received accurate information on the subject, disseminated this information to others, and may have perpetuated a believability about the subject.
Based on the foregoing rationale, the following
research questions are proposed: