THE JOURNAL OF EDUCATION, COMMUNITY, AND VALUES
by Carmen de Pablos Heredero <email@example.com>, Irene Albarrán Lozano & Antonio Montero Navarro
.01. Introduction Communications: Electronic Mail (Return to Index)
Electronics, computers and communications can not now be considered as new technologies, however they have been developed in a progressive way in the last century and a half. Up to now, great capabilities in calculation, processing and data storing have been achieved. Today, communications reach everywhere by allowing the transmission of great quantities of information, thanks to cable and wave infrastructures that allow networked extensions.
Today's possibilities to treat and transmit information allow to influence in social aspects related to communication. In the same way the Industrial Revolution has generated in the last two hundred years variations in the productive structures, social changes derived from a generalized use of telecommunications. Changes point mainly to modify interpersonal relationships, from slower ones to other faster ones, from lack to abundance of information. The appearance, in our century, of "telematic" networks, especially in the nineties, has not only changed the way we access knowledge, but the way it is produced and the relationships we establish to keep communication.
As Rheingold (1996) states, "computer media communications have the power to change our lives at different levels reciprocally influenced. As humans, we have perceptions, personalities and thoughts since we transmit through other technologies that affect the way we use the media. In a level of interaction from person to person, technology allows multilateral communication".
As other previous media allowed the removal of social barriers in relationship with time and space, the electronic mail is helping to eliminate identity barriers. We must bear in mind that the way people make use of technology affects our own behaviour, thoughts and the relationships we generate.
New tools for the treatment and transmission of information affect the social aspects related to communication. Society is built by interconnected groups characterized for developing shared values and interests, interaction rules, identity and particular group feeling. An adequate use of information technologies can promote changes in the process of group socialisation.
1.Information and Communication technologies. Electronic mail
The implementation of information technologies in organizations and their strategic consequences have been studied under different perspectives. Porter (1985), Sethi and King (1994) ; Toraskar and Joglekar (1993) refer to concrete cases of obtaining advantage for an appropriate use of information technologies in the communication processes. For McKeen and Smith (1993), the use of information technology can have effects not only in the relationships amongst organizations but also in their internal relationships. Brown (1995) mentions the investments in strategic information systems as a way for organizations to look for competitive advantages.
Dos Santos (1993) supports the idea that the impact on investments in information technology in the organization can not be understood in a complete way, by only putting attention on the performance measured in high levels of value creation, since this way, it is difficult to distinguish between applications and uses. To understand the impact of a technology in the organization, it is appropriate to check how it is being used in the process in which it is being implemented. It is convenient to identify differences between the way information technology is perceived by users as a means to search competitiveness and how this perception is taken into reality.
Information technologies are affecting the way information exchanges amongst different members in the organizations. They allow, in many cases, to substitute the physical contact. Many authors have checked, in an empirical way, the role of electronic media in communication (Eveland and Bikson, 1988 ; Finfholt and Sproull, 1990 ; Markus, 1994 ; Rice and Associates, 1984 ; Fulk, 1993 ; Sproull and Kiesler, 1991 ; Trevino, Lengel and Daft, 1987).
Yates and Orliwoski (1992 ; 1994) speak about genres in organizational communication, for example, one memo, a committee or a summary, as typified and common actions socially recognised as a way with a purpose and common determined characteristics. The purpose of communication in a genre is not a private individual aim to communicate but a built and recognised purpose, utilized in some circumstances. For example, the socially recognised purpose of a committee meeting is to discuss, make decisions, delegate or implement some actions related to competencies.
Ricoma (1996) speaks about two types of available technologies for communication in organizations: face to screen technologies and voice and data technologies, where we could include facsimile, electronic mail and voice and mail technologies.
In the last fifteen years, the use of personnel computers has popularised a great number of information services, including electronic mail. E-mail is a way to exchange information in which messages are sent from a personal computer or terminal to another via modem and telecommunication systems.
The use of e-mail started with ARPAnet (as an Internet precursor) in 1963 and 1970 in the United States, it was gradually extended with the use of mainframes and minicomputers based in local networks in the seventies and had a great increase with the use of Internet in the eighties. Electronic mail in the beginning was thought as a means for exchanging information for small and selected groups. Actually, its use has been extended to million of users all over the world. Electronic mail is the most utilized service in Internet. Since 1970, it has been implemented as a communication tool for academic and personnel relationships. In 1990, the popularity and ubiquity in the electronic mail over the rest of traditional communication means has allowed it to be recognised as a standard way of communication.
Electronic mail allows sending messages by making usage of computerised means. Messages are stored in a personal boxmail. When a user needs to look at their messages, he or she can visualise, warehouse or send again the received messages. The messages that have been sent can be in any kind of format, texts, graphics, images, sound, etc.
E-mail is an electronic means that allows a fast communication between sender and receiver. Saenz Vacas refers to electronic mail as EAUDC by trying to stress typical characteristics that make this a proper way for certain types of communication in organizations (electronic, asyncronic, ubiquity, digital and computerised).
Now, let us mention some of main advantages and disadvantages of this communication tool, especially in relationship with the university environment
Table 1- Electronic mail versus personnel communication advantages
|ELECTRONIC MAIL ADVANTAGES||PERSONNEL COMMUNICATION ADVANTAGES|
|Quickness and reliability in the reception and sending of messages||Personal contact increase|
|It does not require for the sender or receiver to be in a certain fixed place||It allows a better transmission of complex messages|
|It is easy to store, resend and integrate||It improves messages consistency|
|Low cost||It increases\ motivation and enthusiasm|
|It allows a better understanding in some cases|
.02. Objective in the Study (Return to Index)
In a university field, in which there is an important need to establish communications with main objectives in the research amongst people and workteams, the use of electronic mail is essential. In the Spanish university environment there is not a specific policy for a formal use of electronic mail. In the United States, some initiatives have been developed in relation to this theme, on trying to develop policies for using the tool, by looking for a consistency with mission and university objectives (Anderson et al., 1996).
Although some studies have been developed over the use of electronic mail in private enterprises, it is often more unusual to find work based in the use of this tool by the Public Administration. We consider of interest to know some data related to the use of electronic mail by professors, as it is a group of persons that can clearly influence in the technological training of future workers.
For that, our study, developed in Madrid's Public Universities, has as main objectives :
.03.- Methodolgy (Return to Index)
In order to know main parameters in the use of electronic mail in the university, a survey was sent to the whole population of professors and researchers of the public universities in Madrid, in the period of November and December 1998, and in the beginning of January 1999. In these universities there are working 13.648 professors and researchers, as last available figures from the beginning of academic year 1998-1999 show.
The survey is divided into five parts, composed of 23 questions. Every part is dedicated to a different aspect :
The next table shows some of the different questions considered in the survey, and variables utilized for the statistical treatment.
TABLE 2.- Questionnaire
|DATA||TYPE OF VARIABLE|
|PART I: PERSONNEL DATA|
|Age||Qualitative : categorical(from 1 to 5)|
|University||Qualitative : categorical (from 1 to 6)|
|Knowledge area||Qualitative : categorical (from 1 to 5)|
|Years working at university||Qualitative : discrete|
|Years developing actual job||Qualitative : discrete|
|Professional status||Qualitative : categorical (from 1 to 7)|
|PART II : PREVIOUS ATTITUDE|
|Attitude through computer tools||Qualitative : categorical (from 1 to 5)|
|Attitude through electronic mail||Qualitative : categorical (from 1 to 5)|
|PART III: TRAINING|
|Level of knowledge of text processors||Qualitative : categorical (from 0 to 5)|
|Level of knowledge of electronic sheets||Qualitative : categorical (from 0 to 5)|
|Level of knowledge of internet||Qualitative : categorical (from 0 to 5)|
|Level of knowledge of electronic mail||Qualitative : categorical (from 0 to 5)|
|Level of knowledge of digital data bases||Qualitative : categorical (from 0 to 5)|
|Level of knowledge of statistic-mathematic software||Qualitative : categorical (from 0 to 5)|
|Level of use of text processors||Qualitative : categorical (from 0 to 5)|
|Level of use of electronic sheets||Qualitative : categorical (from 0 to 5)|
|Level of use of internet||Qualitative : categorical (from 0 to 5)|
|Level of use of electronic mail||Qualitative : categorical (from 0 to 5)|
|Level of use of digital databases||Qualitative : categorical (from 0 to 5)|
|Level of use of statistic-mathematic software||Qualitative : categorical (from 0 to 5)|
|Way of achieving actual knowledge of e-mail||Qualitative : categorical (from 1 to 4)|
|PART IV : USE OF ELECTRONIC MAIL|
|Daily time of e-mail usage||Qualitative : discrete|
|Number of messages daily sent by e-mail||Qualitative : discrete|
|Percentage of messages with strictly laboral content||Qualitative : discrete|
|Percentage of messages with non laboral content||Qualitative : discrete|
|Percentage of messages that do not arrive to destination||Qualitative : discrete|
|Position over the use of sense of humour in the messages||Qualitative : categorical (from 1 to 5)|
|PART V : SATISFACTION AND EXPECTATIONS|
|Advantages in the use of electronic mail||Qualitative : opened|
|Main problems in the use of electronic mail||Qualitative : opened|
|Do you know some firms control messages?||Qualitative : dicotomic|
|Do you consider it an adequate action? explain it||Qualitative : dicotomic opened|
|Are there in your actual work specific rules related to e-mail use||Qualitative : dicotomic|
|Are there specific security measures ?||Qualitative : dicotomic opened|
|Do you consider e-mail as a secure tool for communication ?||Qualitative : dicotomic|
.04. Results (Return to Index)
The deadline for receiving surveys, after an ampliation, was closed in a definitive way the first of March. This time, 910 answers had been received, although there are lost values in some of the questions. From this, most of the respondents come from the Complutense University in Madrid, UCM (273, 30,7%), followed by the Autonoma University from Madrid, UAM (166), Politechnic University in Madrid, UPM (163), Alcala de Henares University, UAH (126), Carlos III University, UC3M (118), Rey Juan Carlos University, URJC (43).
As we can observe, most answers have to be with people from the Complutense University in Madrid. This is mainly due to the big quantity of people that work, it is now one of the biggest Universities in Spain. After, we can also check the percentage of responses in every university in relationship with professors, the level of reponse obtained has been over 6%, having reached better indexes the new universities, Carlos III University and Rey Juan Carlos University, together with Alcalá de Henares.
TABLE 3.- Response percentage by universities
|Complutense (UCM)||Autónoma (UAM)||Politécnica (UPM)||Alcalá (UAH)||Carlos III (UC3M)||Rey Juan Carlos (URJC)||TOTAL|
If we consider areas of knowledge, the answers have been, Social Sciences (262), Engineering (234), Experimental Sciences (210), Health Sciences (100) and Humanitites (103).
Lastly, in Table 4 we can check reponse indexes by professional categories. The great reponse index in the generic category "others", has senior professors, visitors and other contractual varieties, we can even stress assistant professors, that mean more than 10% of total responses.
TABLE 4.- Response Percentage by professional category
|Professors in University||Associates in University||Professors in Technical University||Associates in Technical University||Senior Assistants||Junior Assistants||Others|
|Number of teachers||1505||4411||225||1970||4538||785||116|
By observing the frequencies of response we could establish a profile of responses. It is on average an associate in university, with nine years of experience in his actual job or similar, he is about forty years old (with a great difference in the Rey Juan Carlos University, which is the newest one).
4.1.2.- Previous attitude to electronic mail and computer media
Attitude to computers and electronic mail is very positive in every case. General values put an emphasis in positive attitudes or very positive in the e-mail, in 96% of answers, having lightly decreased (92%) the figures if we refer to attitude to computers.
TABLE 5.- Attitude to computers and electronic mail by universities
|e-mail attitude||"++" (62%)||"++" (68,1%)||"++" (66,4%)||"++" (62,7%)||"++" (72%)||"++" (62,8%)|
|media attitude||"+" (49%)||"+" (48,2%)||"++" (57,1%)||"++" (49,2)||"++" (53,4)||"+" (51,2%)|
The attitude towards computers is positive ("+") in all professional categories, except for associate professors, that show a completely positive attitude ("++"). In concerning with knowledge areas, again most attitudes are positive ones, except in engineering areas (that it is completely positive). The predominant attitude through electronic mail is, however, completely positive, except in the area of humanities and in the professional category of Professor of Technical University, which is simply positive.
3.Knowledge and use of computer tools
In Table number 6, we can observe general data related to knowledge and use of electronic mail. Responses have been again classified in three different levels, low, medium and high respectively (1,2 and 3).
We can observe the existence of two groups of computer tools that we could call simple and complex ones. This way, people asked show, in general, high level of knowledge and use in the electronic mail, text processors and Internet, while levels related to digital databases, electronic sheets and mathematic-statistical packages are slightly low. These two groups are characterized by different behaviours: while the so called of "easy use", knowledge is higher, the complex ones are generally learned for their use, in these last ones knowledge and use go together.
TABLE 6.- Knowledge and Use of Electronic Mail
|Digital Data Bases||1,7||47,8%||34,3%||17,9%|
|Digital Data Bases||1,6||55,3%||27,9%||16,9%|
In a new table (number 7), we collect the mean numbers we have obtained for knowledge and use of computer tools in relation with knowledge area.
TABLE 7.- Knowledge and use of computer tools by areas of knowledge
|Humanities||Social Sciences||Engineerings||Experimental Sciences||Health Sciences|
|Digital Data Bases||1,5||1,7||1,8||1,5||1,6|
|Digital Data Bases||1,5||1,6||1,5||1,5||1,6|
Engineering Professors seem to have greater knowledge in all computer tools, and Humanities ones, seem to have lower levels. This difference is repeated constantly in the case of tool use. In the case of text processors, the tool is equally known and used by different knowledge areas, apart from their specialization.
This difference is reproduced by universities, since practically the whole group of the Polytechnic University are in Engineering. They show a greater knowledge in the use of all computer media. By professional categories, we can stress that those who possess a greater knowledge in these tools are Assistant ones. In general all categories have an upper knowledge degree in word processors and electronic mail. Technical and University Professors know and use fewer databases and electronic mail. University Professors use fewer data bases and Internet in general.
With a great difference in all universities, self-training is the commonest way to acquire knowledge about electronic mail. In the Rey Juan Carlos University, the Polithecnic University and Alcalá de Henares, the percentage is over 50%. There are also many answers that include a mix in this option with some others, that is, with a brief explanation from friends and knowledgable people, with classes in the university or other kind of classes.
4.1.4.- Use of electronic mail
In this part, we try to find out some details in relationship with the use of electronic mail. Mean time in daily use of electronic mail is about 32 minutes (a 27,7% from the answers use it half an hour a day). However it is important to stress that there is a great dispersion (35 minutes), and the presence of a group over 15,5% that daily use electronic mail during an hour or more time. By universities, answers go from mean values about 40 minutes in the case of professors from the Polytechnic University to 23 minutes in the case of the Rey Juan Carlos University.
In relation to the number of sent messages, we can check that in mean numbers, four messages are sent per day, although there is a great dispersion (7,8 standard deviation). A 24% of the people send two daily messages and 22% reply one. Paradoxically, there is a person who admits to send daily 98 messages. Once again, the Polytechnic University is stressed over the rest (6 messages per day), and if we take into account areas, engineering is the most important one.
TABLE 8.- Use of electronic mail
|Complutense University (UCM)||Autónoma University (UAM)||Polytechnic University (UPM)||Alcalá de Henares University (UAH)||Carlos III University (UC3M)||Rey Juan Carlos University (URJC)||MEAN|
|mean time of use per day||27||35||40||27||39||24||32|
of sent messages
|strictly laboral messages (all)||38%||37,80%||36,10%||41,30%||26,70%||27,50%||36,20%|
|non laboral messages (any)||38,70%||38,60%||39,60%||30,40%||30,40%||33,30%||36,30%|
|all messages arrive
|number of persons that do not belong to a listserver||50%||27,50%||41,40%||32,80%||24.10%||64,20%||39%|
|sense of humour (as a voluntary choice)||52%||56,50%||52,20%||55,90%||61,70%||50%||50,50%|
In relationship with the percentage of messages with a whole laboral sense, more than a third of professors say that all of them are, while only two thirds assure that more than a 75% of their messages are completely laboral. At the same time, almost four of ten professors do not ever send non-laboral messages, and only 25% send over 25% as number of non-laboral messages. These figures are slightly better than the ones that have been received in practically all studies that have been developed in firms, since there is a need to take advantage of resources that professionals working in every kind of firm. In any case, and out of this consideration, we have been able to contrast that there is an absolute independence between the variable "use of electronic mail" and number of strictly laboral messages (that it is, the first one does not condition the second one). Rey Juan Carlos University mixes two curious faces, as it is the major number of strictly laboral messages and the greatest quantity of messages with a non-laboral character. By categories, professors from University represent the biggest percentage of strictly laboral messages, while assistants and others are the ones that less percentage represent in this study.
About half of the people in the study state that all their messages arrive into destination and most of the rest signal that there is a small number of lost messages. The smallest percentage of lost messages come from Engineering (hardly the biggest number of messages by mean), against Humanities. In our opinion, this could have a relationship with the technological training of the different groups.
Table 9 shows the percentage of answers that indicate the opinion of the groups about using a certain sense of humour in the messages sent by electronic mail:
TABLE 9.- Sense of humour in the messages of electronic mail
|Considered aspect||Percentage of responses|
|it is a waste of time and resources||11%|
|it is easily misunderstood||6,5%|
|it is a voluntary choice||55,6%|
|it is good||19,4%|
|It is adequate, even for professional messages||7,6%|
On forgetting the answers that state that it is an opinion, it seems to be a greater of favourable opinions that opposite ones. The answer to that question is quite uniform by Universities and knowledge areas, although there is a great divergence by categories. We can stress that Technical University Professors mainly perceive that the sense of humour is a waste of resources and time.
4.1.5.- Satisfaction and expectations
In the last part of the survey we have tried to find out about advantages and problems derived from the use of electronic mail in this environment, and this time be sure about the perception of asked people about the security problems in networks and to know other opinions.
TABLE 10.- Satisfaction and expectations over electronic mail
|Complutense University (UCM)||Autónoma University (UAM)||Polythecnic University (UPM)||Alcalá de Henares University (UAH)||Carlos III University (UC3M)||Rey Juan Carlos University (URJC)||MEAN|
|Existence of rules about electronic mail||6,20%||12,90%||11,70%||6,70%||33,30%||0%||11,90%|
|Knowledge over control of messages||16,50%||35,40%||44,90%||10,50%||41,10%||29,30%||37,80%|
|Knowledge about security measures||9,40%||19,80%||20,30%||20%||51,60%||26,30%||27,70%|
|Consideration of electronic mail as a secured technology||49%||54,20%||49,40%||54,20%||67,30%||46,30%||53,40%|
Electronic mail, is generally considered as a secure communication tool. We can stress the case of the Carlos III University, that presents a better knowledge about the existence of security rules and measures over electronic mail. In the other hand we can observe that most professors do not know about the existence of controls in the contents of electronic mails. It is important to check that in the Rey Juan Carlos University none of the professors know of any rule over electronic mail use, although one important part of them employ security measures.
Tables 11 and 12 show frequencies got in the advantages and disadvantages of electronic mail that have been stressed as more important by participants.
TABLE 11.- Advantages of the use of electronic mail
|ADVANTAGES||Complutense University (UCM)||Autónoma University (UAM)||Polythecnic University (UPM)||Alcalá de Henares University (UAH)||Carlos III University (UC3M)||Rey Juan Carlos University (URJC)||TOTAL|
|1.- information quickness||184||91||134||120||129||40||698|
|2.- few confidentiality or privacy||180||34||56||13||12||33||328|
|3.- file transfer||100||58||12||107||51||13||241|
|9.- messages storing||1||2||1||8||2||2||16|
|10.- manager simplifier||1||3||1||3||1||1||10|
The main perceived advantage is the fastness in the communication, recognised by 700 responses (from the total 889 received). There are also some important considerations as, for example, simplicity and easy use, the possibility to send other files and a low cost. In relationship with problems appeared as a consequence of electronic mail use, it has been stressed by priority order:
Table 12; Perceived Disadvantages
|Alcalá de Henares University
|Carlos III University
|Rey Juan Carlos University
|1.- many different softwares||199||55||53||12||13||13||345|
|2.- few confidentiality and privacy||149||13||28||46||15||12||263|
|3.- high timetable dedication||14||36||17||19||36||34||120|
|4.- some messages do not arrive||36||35||2||17||13||13||116|
|7.- lost of information||13||3||4||1||1||2||24|
|10.- it has not problems||3||2||1||3||2||1||11|
|11.- lack of
|12.- difficult access||2||2||0||5||0||2||11|
|13.- failures, technical problems||5||0||0||0||5||0||10|
The biggest disadvantage about the use of electronic mail is the existence of various programmes that manage the tool. This can make it more difficult the understanding and weakly modify formats. There are also answers related to confidentiality or the need of time. To solve some of these problems, are two of the main security measures mentioned in the answers : antivirus and the use of key words.
The quantity of perceived advantages by the users is often close to double the inconveniences, where we can conclude that there is a high satisfaction in the use of the electronic mail. Professors consider it as an agile and inexpensive way of transmitting information that makes it easier for some communications although in some cases, with lack of confidentiality.
The possibility, even the legality of an eventual received and sent message control by email is a controversial. The next table collects answers to these questions, classified by universities and grouped in more positive, medium, less positive.
TABLE 13.- Opinions over control measures in the electronic mail
|1.- Unconstitutional: violates intimacy rights||30||28||144||26||72||16||438|
|2.- It is not adequate||15||101||181||55||7||5||364|
|5.- Unjustifiable : DELIT||15||54||14||5||13||33||134|
|8.- No, It is low and unworry||2||14||0||3||0||0||19|
|9.- Never at the University||2||0||0||0||1||14||17|
|12.- Yes, because time is consumed||13||36||0||0||17||3||69|
|13.- They are professionals||56||0||0||0||0||1||57|
|14.- Yes, even in personal messages||5||14||15||0||0||0||34|
|15.- Yes in private firms, not in public ones||2||3||0||0||0||17||22|
First to say about the achieved responses is that the question has not been indifferent to most people. The existence of more answers that received surveys implies that expressed opinions are complex, especially when they do not agree with the control, since professors keep different arguments. especially significant it is the existence of a group that supports the control of messages when they are professionals, especially in an environment like the university where confidentiality in some research is crucial.
Most favourable opinions about the control of electronic mail are based in the waste of time it generates sometimes, while most contrary efforts keep the idea that it is a violation of intimity rights, in comparison with, for example, a phone conversation.
As a conclusion in this part, we can affirm that electronic mail is, in general, evaluated in a positive way although some disadvantages are still perceived; professors do not consider the tool as a futuristic one but as a present element to use.
4.2.- Correlation study
Now, we proceed to the study of correlations, before the formulation of some hypothesis in the paper.
There is a significative correlation (over 59%) in the attitude towards computer media and towards electronic mail. It is a logical relationship, due to the fact that the time employed is the same (in the computer), and the electronic mail keeps strong relationships with some computer tools (as for example, text processors to send messages).
Slightly less, although also significant, is the relationship amongst attitude and knowledge towards electronic mail, closely aligned with the psychological theories about computer media. In the same situation, the relationship between attitude towards electronic mail and its use (close to 50%) is found. Finally, in the same group, although slightly higher is the relationship between knowledge and use of electronic mail.
To contrast in certain way the veracity of the previous statements, we can observe that, although less, there is a certain correlation between knowledge of electronic mail and time dedicated to its use (26%). Apart from this, the mean time of electronic mail usage is related with the number of sent messages, although only at the 16% level.
The previously-established relations concerning electronic mail have also been applied to the rest of computer media. In this sense, there are strong relationships (over 75%) in the knowledge and use of internet, digital databases and statistical packages. We can explain these high correlations, especially the last two ones, due to the difficulty in the learning of these tools, that are only going to be justified if they are going to be utilized.
The degree of knowledge over internet is also positively correlated with the use of electronic mail (53%). Besides, due to the possibility of building electronic mail by Internet, this relationship is supported since both technologies belong to the telematic area.
As some curiosities, we can stress the strong negative correlation (about 54%) between the age of the people surveyed and the percentage of messages with a non-laboral content. Most of these messages with no laboral content are sent by the youngest people.
4.3.- Formulation and hypothesis contrast
Taking into account the Theory of the Reasoned Action (Fishbein and Ajzenis, 1975), attitude shows the quantity of affection that one person feels "towards or against" some object or behaviour. Attitude of a person in relationship with information technology is referred to the fact if the person feels that information technology is positive or negative. Davis et al. (1989) find that the the feelings people have towards information technology is positive or negative. Davis et al. (1989) find that people's attitudes to the use of information technologies is directly related with the perception these persons have about the technology. Orlikowsky and Gash (1994) maintain that the knowledge people have on the technological behaviour is critical to understand the interaction.
From these theories we can directly derive the following hypotheses :
H1 : There is a direct relationship in the attitude people have towards e-mail and the knowledge of it.
H2 : There is a relationship between electronic mail knowledge and use of electronic mail.
H3 : There is a direct relationship between attitude towards computer media and knowledge of computer media.
H4 : There is a relationship between knowledge and use of computer media.
In the same way, we can affirm that electronic mail keeps a narrower relationship with some computer media than with other ones. This way, due to the fact that most sent messages today have a high textual content, we could relate knowledge of text processors with e-mail use. In the same way, with the same origin and certain convergence of technologies we can postulate a relationship between internet knowledge and electronic mail use. These opinions are supported by the correlation study we have developed before.
H5 : There is a direct relationship between text processors knowledge and the use of electronic mail.
H6 : There is a direct relationship between internet knowledge and the use of electronic mail.
Apart from these hypotheses, directly derived from the theory and the observation, we will have the opportunity to contrast the existence of some other relations and variables conditioning.
For the contrast of the before-mentioned hypothesis ANOVA (variance analysis) has been utilized . In all cases the null hypothesis of mean iguality has been refused. This way, the relationships between attitude and knowledge in one hand, and knowledge and use of electronic mail with the rest of computer media in the other hand have been checked. Now, we indicate signification levels in the case of the electronic mail.
TABLE 14.- Values in the variance analysis
|Relationship||F. Snedecor||Significance level|
|Electronic mail attitude towards electronic mail knowledge||40,23||0,000|
|Electronic mail knowledge towards electronic mail use||212,11||0,000|
|Internet knowledge towards electronic mail use||53,29||0,000|
|Text processors knowledge towards electronic mail use||16,77||0,000|
A very interesting and surprising argument at the same time is, however, that it has been impossible to check the existence of a direct relationship between attitude and use of various computer media, including electronic mail. This way we have achieved the conclusion that the initial perception of a media is only related to the real use through the learning of the tool, the knowledge acquired.
The second group of hypotheses (5 and 6), related to the relationship amongst different media, have been already checked, so we can affirm that the most related computer software with electronic mail are internet and text processors. Some characteristics in common have already been indicated, but we could add some others, as the easy learning of these tools, in general self-made, or universality in the subjects.
4.4.- Contingency tables
To finish, we are going to show a contingency table showing the values of uses and knowledge for the different areas, so that main similarities and differences amongst them are stressed.
TABLE 15.- Contingencies by knowledge area
|Social Sciences||Technology and Engineering Sciences||Experimental
|Use of electronic sheets||Medium-low||Medium||Medium-low||Medium||Very low|
|Use of electronic mail||High||High||High||High||High|
|Use of databases||Low||Low||Medium-low||Medium-low||Low|
|Use of Internet||Medium||Medium-high||Medium||Medium||Medium|
|Use of statistical software||Medium||Medium||Medium||Medium-low||Very low|
|Use of text processors||High||High||High||High||High|
|Knowledge of electronic sheets||Medium-low||Medium||Medium-low||Medium-low||Low|
|Knowledge of electronic mail||Medium-high||High||High||High||Medium-high|
|Knowledge of databases||Low||Medium-low||Low||Low||Low|
|Knowledge of internet||Medium||Medium-high||Medium||Medium||Medium|
|Knowledge of statistical software||Medium-low||Medium-low||Low||Low||Very low|
|Knowledge of text processors||High||Medium-high||High||Medium-high||High|
|Attitude towards media||++||++||++||++||++|
|Attitude towards electronic mail||++||++||++||++||++|
.05.- Conclusions (Return to Index)
In this paper we have tried to develop a brief approach to the use of electronic mail in the public universities in Madrid. For that, we have started by considering the knowledge of a relevant part in theory towards this communication media, and we have contrasted it with data collected in the developed survey.
Electronic mail has now a great relevance, even bigger in the university environment. The need to collect data and do research in groups should be the basis for highly using electronic mail. High versatility and the easiness in the manipulation convert it potentially in the most important communication media for the tasks of research.
There is a positive attitude towards electronic mail. Only some inconveniences such as the absence of a generalized standard or lack of confidentiality avoid a plain use to some persons. We consider that the use will be increasing as user's technical training increases too, and with the development of security tools too. We must, however stress the existence of some significative differences by universities, knowledge areas and professional categories, that we consider that tend to be reduced in time.
As future research papers, it should be interesting to compare the obtained results in this work with the ones that can appear from similar studies performed in private universities, in the students of both types of universities and in other people working for the Public Administration.
Another important study to develop could be the comparison of data obtained in the this study with data collected from firms that operate in our country, as we think some interesting differences can be found.
.06.- References (Return to Index)
Anderson, R.H. ; Bikson, T.K. ; Law, S. ; Mitchell, M. (1996).- "Universal access to e-mail" feasibility and societal implications", Rand.
Brown, R.M.; Gatian, M.W.; Hicks, J.O. (1995).- "Strategic Information Systems and Financial Performance", Journal of Management Information Systems, primavera, vol. 11, nº 4, pp. 215-248.
Clemons, E.; Row, M. (1991).- "Sustaining IT Advantage: The Role of Structural Differences", Management Information Systems Quarterly, Septiembre, pp. 275-292.
Davis, F. (1989).- "Perceived Uselfulness, Perceived Ease of Use, and End User Acceptance of Information Technology", Management Information Systems Quarterly, Septiembre, pp. 319-339.
Dos Santos, B.; Peffers, K. (1993).- "Firm Level Performance Effects: A Framework for Information Technology Evaluation Research, Capítulo 23. En Strategic Information Technology Management. Banker, Kauffman, Mahmood (Eds). Idea Group, pp. 515-546.
Erosa, V.E. (1996).- Exploring how Information Technology Affects Competitive Advantage in a Core Stable Technology Manufacturing Firm. Tesis Doctoral. Universidad de Texas at Austin-ITESM-CCM.
Eveland, J.D. ; Bikson, T.K. (1988).- "Work Group Structures and Computes Support : a Field Experiment", ACM Transactions on Office Information Systems, 4, 4, pp. 354-379.
Finholt, T. ; Sproull, L. (1990).- "Electronic Groups at Work", Organization Science, 1, 1, pp. 41-64.
Fishbein, M.; Ajzen, Y. (1975).- "Belief, Attitude, Intentions and Behaviour: An Introduction to Theory and Research, Addison-Wesley, Boston, M.A.
Fulk, J. (1993).- "Social Construction of Communication Technology", Academy of Management Journal, 36, 5, pp. 921-950.
Ginzberg, M.J. (1981).- "Finding an Adequate Measure or OR/MS Effectiveness, Interfaces, vol. 8, nº 4, pp. 59-62.
Ives, B.; Javenpaa, S.L. (1991).- "Aplications of Global Information Technology: Key Issues for Management", Management Information Systems Quarterly, vol. 15, nº 1, marzo, pp. 33-49.
Markus, M.L. (1994).- "Electronic Mail as the Medium of Managerial Choice", Organization Science, 5, 4, pp. 502-527.
McFarlan, D. (1984).- "Information Technology changes the way you compete", Harvard Business Review, vol. 62, nº 3, pp. 98-103.
McKeen, J.D.; Smith, H.A. (1993).- "The relationship between Information Technology Use and Organizational Performance", cap. 20. En Strategic Information Technology Management. Banker, Kauffman, Mahmood (Eds). Idea Group, pp. 405-444.
Orlowsky, W.J.; Gash, D.C. (1994).- "Technological Frames: Making Sense of Information Technology in Organizations, ACM Transactions on Information Systems, vol., 12, nº 2, Abril, pp. 174-207.
Porter M.E. (1985).- "Technology and Competitive Advantage", cap. 5 en Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance, Free Press, N.Y.
Porter M.; Millar, V.E. (1985).- "How Information gives you Competitive Advantage", Harvard Business Review, Julio-Agosto, pp. 149-160.
Rheingold, H. (1996).- "La comunidad virtual", Gedisa.
Rice, R.E. and Associates (eds.) (1984).- "The New Media : Communication, research and Technology", Newbury Park CA, Sage.
Ricoma, C. (1996).- "Impacto de la Tecnología de la Información en la Comunicación Interna", Capital Humano, nº 90, junio, pp. 36-39.
Scott-Morton, M. (1991).- "The Corporation of the 1990s. Information technology and organizational transformation", Oxford University Press.
Sethi, V.; King, W.R. (1994).- "Development of Measures to assess the extend to which an Information Technology Application provides Competitive Advantage", Management Science, vol. 40, nº 12, diciembre, pp. 1601-1620.
Silver, M.; Lynne, M.; Mathis, C. (1994).- "The information technology interaction model", Work Paper series, STERN IS 94-5. Stern School of Business. Center for Research on Information Systems. Nueva York University. Obtenido en Internet en, http://www.nyu.edu.
Sproull, L. ; Kiesler, S. (1991).- "Connections : New Ways of working in the Networked Organization", Cambridge, M.A. The MIT Press.
Torascar, K.; Joglekar, P. (1993).- "Applying cost-benefit analysis methodology for Information Technology Investment Decisions", cap. 6. En Strategic Information Technology Management, Banker, Kauffman, Mahmood (Eds) Idea Group, pp. 119-142.
Trevino, L.K. ; Lengel, R.K. ; Daft, R.L. (1987).- "Media Symbolism, Mdia Richness and media Choice in Organizations", Communication Research, 14, 5, pp. 553-574
Weill, P. (1992).- "The Relationship Betweem investment in Information Technology and Firm Performance: A Study of the Valve Manufacturing Sector", Information Systems Research, vol. 3, nº 4, diciembre, pp. 307-333.
Weill, P. (1993).- "The Role and Value of Information Technology Infraestructure: Some Empirical Observations. Capítulo 24. En Strategic Information Technology Management. Banker, Kauffman, Mahmood (Eds), Idea Group, pp. 547-572.
Wilson, D. (1993).- "Assesing the Impact of Information Technology on Organizational Performance", cap. 22, En Strategic Information Technology Management. Banker, Kauffman, Mahmood (Eds). Idea Group, pp. 471-514.
Yates, J. ; Orlikowski, W.J. (1994).- "Genre repertorie : Examining the Structuring of Communicative Practices in Organizations", Administrative Science Quaterly, 39, 4, pp. 541-574.
Yates, J. ; Orlikowski, W.J. (1992).- "Genres of Organizational Communication : A Structurational Approach to Studying Communication and Media", The Academy of Management Review, 17,2, pp. 299-326.
Yin, R.K. (1994).- Case Study Research Design and Methods", Sage.
Irene Albarrán Lozano (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)
Antonio Montero Navarro (Universidad Rey Juan Carlos)
Carmen de Pablos
Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Sociales Universidad Rey Juan Carlos de Madrid
Paseo de los Artilleros s/n
28032 Madrid. España