Abstract - The Information Society 9 (3)

Technological or social utility? Unraveling explanations of email, vmail and fax use

Louise L Soe and Lynne M Markus

Individuals who have ready access to three new communication media - email, vmail, and fax - may elect to use only one medium, or two or more in combination. Users make choices based on evaluations of the utility of each medium for their communication tasks (a function of the types of work they perform). Since communication media require multiple users, individuals may be expected to assess characteristics of the user community to evaluate the social utility of each medium. An analysis finds that perceptions of the technological and social utility of email, vmail, and fax are relatively independent of the types of work people perform. Social utility explains media usage somewhat better than technological utility, except in the case of email. Thus, the concept of social utility should be given more attention in future investigations of media choice.

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