The Internet at Home: Expectations, Realities, and the Future

Sara Kiesler, Carnegie Mellon University

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University February 5, 1999


The Internet could change commerce and the lives of average citizens as much as did the telephone in the early part of the 20th century and television in the 1950s and 1960s. HomeNet is a Carnegie Mellon research project studying what families do with the Internet and how it is changing their lives. From 1995-1998, a field study examined over 100 Pittsburgh households representing a wide range of demographics. The HomeNet project provided participants with computer equipment, subsidized access to the Internet and training in using both their computers and the Internet.

Through detailed, ongoing questionnaires and electronic data collection, the HomeNet project team studied Internet usage and its effects on participants' lives. This presentation will review the major findings of the study, and touch on some new results from additional samples. The HomeNet results bear on questions for the future such as what will motivate or discourage new technologies in the home (e.g., home networks).

Sara Kiesler has done extensive research on the social and behavioral aspects of computers and computer-based communication technologies. In their co-authored book (Connections: New Ways of Working in the Networked Organization, MIT Press, 1991), she and Lee Sproull discussed their work on such topics as "flaming," social equalization in networks, psychological aspects of electronic privacy, and distributed teams. More recent projects include the HomeNet field trial of how families use the Internet, experimental research on human-like video and audio displays, a study of how people learn technical teamwork, and studies of electronic support groups. Kiesler has served on several National Academy of Sciences committees working on social issues surrounding computer technology and the Internet, and she recently edited a social sciences handbook, Culture of the Internet (1997, Erlbaum).

Titles and abstracts for all years are available by year and by speaker.

For more information about HCI at Stanford see

Overview Degrees Courses Research Faculty FAQh