Computer mediated communication through Bulletin Board Systems (BBS:s)

Mats Wiklund
Department of Computer and Systems Sciences
Stockholm University
Forum 100
SE-164 40 Kista Sweden
+46 8 161614

In order to establish to what extent computer mediated bulletin board systems, BBS:s, are being used by teenagers for different purposes, a survey was conducted. All 9:th grade pupils (normally 14 to 15 years of age) in the community of Stockholm, Sweden were asked to participate through their schools, generating 3574 test subjects and a 78% response rate.

The results show that 18,75% of the participants (30,66% of the males and 6,66% of the females) in the study had used BBS systems, and that most of them had done so only to a limited extent, while a smaller group of participants in the study had used BBS:s extensively.

Other aspects of the study covers the topics of who owns the computer equipement used, how frequently the test subjects had used BBS:s during the 30-day period preceeding their participation in the study, and wether distant or nearby BBS:s are being used. Results regarding the latter topic show that those BBS users who always had contacted distant BBS:s had performed more than twice as many connections as any other user group.

Out of 8 defined tasks/services for which BBS:s can be used the most common one was fetching (downloading) computer programs, followed by electronic mail. Results also show that downloading generally is more common than uploading information, suggesting that a small number of individuals produce most of the material that is being accessed by the majority. Reading is also slightly more common than writing when BBS:s are used as a conference system, a purpose for which 20,75% of the test subjects uses BBS:s every time or most of the times they connect.

Further results show that illegal distribution of computer programs through BBS:s occur to a fairly high degree, but also that it is not uncommon that the test subjects are unaware of wether or not it is illegal to distribute the program in question in this way. Among the BBS-using test subjects, experiences of computer virus infections were common, but in a majority of cases the virus contamination did not occur through a BBS.

The BBS-using test subjects were members of a slightly higher number of clubs/associations than the non-BBS-users, and also attended meetings slightly more frequently, suggesting that communication through BBS:s does not replace face-to-face communication.

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