Master of Arts (MA)
Faculty of Science
In Community Psychology, we assume that people at the grassroots can learn to help themselves if they are offered the means of understanding a problem and helped to discover the strategies needed to resolve it. Micro-computer technology is currently at a cultural crossroads: a technology in search of new applications. To date, research and concerns around the role of the computer in society have taken the macro view, being predominantly sociologically, politically, and economically oriented. The purpose of the present study was to bring these issues to the individual level and to examine some variables at the person-computer interface. In effect, we attempted to open the areas of communication between man and machine; to make the machine more accessible to people, and conversely, to help people in their approaches to the technology. The objectives were (a) to use a computer program that would be socially facilitative in a human-like way, so that the computer would be perceived by people as a social stimulus, (b) to provide a rich resource environment for an interaction that would be comfortable and non-threatening for participants, (c) to design the research methodology along the lines of the community oriented ‘collaborative’ model, and (d) to gather data on human performance with a micro-computer for purposes of predictive and correlational analysis as an evaluation of the process of the experience from both researcher and participant perspectives. The broad research question asked what approaches people would make toward the technology under the conditions of our particular model. What attitudinal, personality, and cognitive variables might be used to predict psychological success or competency in the use of the computer? The major hypothesis asserted that the variance in individuals’ interaction with the micro-computer on three dependent dimensions, 1) ease and competency of interaction, 2) lateral/divergent thinking processes, and 3) adventurousness/risk-taking, might be predicted from several independent variable measures: 1) orientation to technology (in relation to level of education and occupational standing); 2) general and personal attitudes towards computers (from which selection to group membership would be made: rational-positive/emotional-negative); and 3) personality attributes (tolerance/intolerance of ambiguity and complexity, and internal/external locus of control). The client system comprised 55 persons ranging in age from 17 to 69 years (mean age = 41 years; median age = 36 years) who consented to commit approximately two and one-half hours of their time in completing a questionnaire package and in one hour interaction with a micro-computer. The researcher and his assistant gathered observational data during each interaction for cross validation with a content analysis of each participant’s printout of interaction. Subsequently, both qualitative and quantitative data were analysed using descriptive, correlational, and multiple regression statistical procedures. The results suggested that our resource-rich environment enabled a large proportion of participants to perform with high levels of competency, creative thinking, and adventurousness, despite previous lack of skills in dealing with a computer, and in spite of previously held negative attitudes towards the personal use of a micro-computer. The issue of attitude alone was unconfirmed in affecting variance in dependent results. It appears that the personality dimensions of the independent variable in combination with predisposed orientation to a powerful social stimulus are much stronger influences on performance with a micro-computer than attitude alone. We concluded that micro-computer technology and its uses in society, in our communities, and in our homes is not necessarily a frightening or threatening experience given resources and approach strategies to the machine that are supportive and socially responsive to people. Future developments will, hopefully, take into account, not only the quality of intelligent and humanly responsive programs, but also the needs and feelings of the people who will interact with them, in a natural and relaxed environment. Participants in this study demonstrated that computer ‘literacy’ can be quickly and easily acquired in a short time, given proper resources and a ‘quality’ environment.
Hallman, Robert Clarence, "The role of the computer in society some aspects of person-machine interaction" (1985). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 521.