††††††††††† ††††††††††† These data cannot be used to say that people who use a lot of hegemonic Web pages will forsake e-mail and become alienated--or vice versa.† Indeed, according to my theory, which overlays the hegemony that pervades society onto online communication, it is more likely that peopleís usage of hegemony online currently reflects their degree of alienation off-line.† I would argue that interpretation is tentatively supported by the data that provide statistically significant backing for nine of my 14 hypotheses, including six of the seven hypotheses dealing with peopleís off-line characteristics.† The lone exception being H9, which was marred by studentsí
Limitations of the Study
††††††††††† ††††††††††† I believe this study constitutes a necessary and sufficient first test of hegemony online theory, even though it relies on a convenience sample mainly comprising college students.† These students were the first to come of age in the digital era, and they will be maturing into their roles in society at the same time online communication matures, making them a good harbinger of audience response to new media.† I did not have the resources to conduct a random-sample, nationwide or worldwide survey, which in any case would merely provide a snapshot of the online world--one that would be outmoded if not obsolete by the time it was analyzed and reported, because the online population is growing so fast.
††††††††††††††††††††††† My sample was sufficient to yield a valuable base-line test of hegemony online because my hypotheses were deduced directly from my theory, and enough data were gathered to show statistically significant relationships among the variables in most cases.† My main regret is the fact I didnít oversample to get more respondents with personal home pages (N=27) and more with online shopping experience (N=29).
††††††††††† ††††††††††† A greater limitation of this study is that it does not test the full theory of hegemony online that I qualitatively deduced.† It does not go beyond providing the base-line evidence of the existence of hegemony online to testing its cybernetic process of deepening dominance.
Suggestions for Future Research
††††††††††† ††††††††††† What is needed to further test and develop this theory of hegemony online is not an expensive random sample so much as a series of longitudinal studies on two parallel fronts.† The first would survey a broad cross-section of online users and home page owners every three to four months for at least two years, which would be a relative eon in the life of the swiftly changing Internet.† If possible, Web page-tracking software would be used to record their online movements for at least a week before each survey.† Alternatively, each study volunteer would keep a diary of his or her usage of online media and all other types of communication, including face-to-face.† The surveys would assess not only their usage of hegemony online, but also their alienation from society.† Ultimately, researchers need to develop a scale to assess each personís current place in the hegemony process; i.e., the degree to which she or he is dominant or subservient, co-opted or marginalized, counterhegemonic or pluralistic.
††††††††††† ††††††††††† Secondly, researchers need to content-analyze a broad cross-section of Web sites at similar intervals (i.e., quarterly or so), to see whether the latent hegemony on those sites changes over time.† Specifically, hegemony online theory would predict that Web sites with open architecture would change cybernetically, in ways that make them even more hegemonic.
††††††††††† Both types of these longitudinal studies are necessary in order to begin to identify cause and effect relationships between hegemony online and its users.† Only then would we have data appropriate for assessing the validity and effect of some of the causal relationships implied in my theory of hegemony online.† Principal among the questions to be tested: Are Internet users becoming increasingly ensnared by hegemony online?† Does hegemony online increase the off-line subservience (or alienation) of its users?† Or does its usage merely reflect hegemony off-line?† And are Web sites using feedback to become more hegemonic?