Accessible Requires Authentication Published by Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag January 14, 2020

Why Do People Use Digital Applications? A Qualitative Analysis of Usage Goals and Psychological Need Fulfillment

Sina Zimmermann and Nina Gerber
From the journal i-com

Abstract

For many people, digital applications, especially messengers, social networks and cloud services, have become an important part of their daily life. Although most users express privacy concerns regarding the use of digital applications, their concerns do not prevent users from sharing personal information with such applications. A reason for this seemingly paradoxical behavior could be that users pursue certain goals when they are using these applications, which possibly overweigh their privacy concerns. We thus conducted semi-structured interviews with 17 users, with most of them being psychology students, to investigate why they use digital applications (i. e., messengers, social networks, cloud services, digital assistants, and Smart TVs) and what psychological needs they aim to fulfill by using these applications. Our study further included a card sorting task, in which the participants ranked the relevance of ten psychological needs for each of the investigated digital applications they reported to use. Using open coding for the analysis of the interview questions, and a quantitative analysis of the card sorting task, we identified four main psychological needs people aim to fulfill by using digital applications: (1) relatedness-belongingness, (2) competence-effectance, (3) pleasure-stimulation, and (4) autonomy-independence, and four additional psychological needs which are application-specific: (5) security, (6) popularity-influence, (7) self-actualization-meaning, and (8) money-luxury. Besides this, we identified several concerns (e. g., data abuse, privacy invasion, and eavesdropping) and reasons why people refrain from using certain digital applications (i. e., the lack of benefits, malfunction, high costs, and the fear of being eavesdropped on). The fulfillment of the psychological needs seem to overweigh those privacy concerns and play a major role for people’s intention to use digital applications, which is why users will not use alternative privacy friendly applications if these do not allow for the fulfillment of those needs in the same way established applications do.

Appendix A

Part I – Interview (translated to English, the original interviews were held in German):

  1. 1.

    Messengers: Do you use technology like messengers to communicate with others?

    1. a.

      If yes:

      Which ones?

      Why/for which purpose?

      In which occasions?

      Which contents?

      With whom?

      Are there any differences regarding which messenger you use?

      Have you changed your use of messengers?

      When/for what reason did you stop using messengers?

      Did you uninstall messengers or stopped using a messenger?

      Which messenger and why?

      Which advantages do you see in the usage of messengers?

      Which disadvantages do you see in the usage of messengers?

    2. b.

      If not:

      Why not?

      Why did you uninstall it?

      Which disadvantages do you see in the usage of messengers?

      Are there, nevertheless, any advantages in the usage of messengers?

  2. 2.

    Social networks: Do you use social networks?

    1. a.

      If yes:

      Which ones?

      Why/for which purpose?

      In which occasions?

      With whom?

      Have you changed your use of messengers?

      Which advantages do you see in the usage of social networks?

      Which disadvantages do you see in the usage of social networks?

    2. b.

      If not:

      Why did you stop using social networks?

      Why haven’t you registered yourself?

      Which disadvantages do you see in the usage of social networks?

      Are there, nevertheless, any advantages in the usage of social networks?

  3. 3.

    Cloud services: Do you use cloud services?

    1. a.

      If yes:

      Which ones?

      Why/for which purpose?

      In which occasions/in which not?

      Which advantages do you see in the usage of cloud services?

      Which disadvantages do you see in the usage of cloud services?

    2. b.

      If not:

      Why not?

      Which disadvantages do you see in the usage of cloud services?

      Are there, nevertheless, any advantages in the usage of cloud services?

  4. 4.

    Digital assistants: Do you use digital assistants e. g. Siri, Google Now, Cortana, Alexa, …?

    1. a.

      If yes:

      Which one?

      Why/for which purpose?

      In which occasions?

      Which advantages do you see in the usage of digital assistants?

      Which disadvantages do you see in the usage of digital assistants?

    2. b.

      If not:

      Why not?

      (Why did you disable your digital assistant?)

      Which disadvantages do you see in the usage of digital assistants?

      Are there, nevertheless, any advantages in the usage of digital assistants?

  5. 5.

    Smart TVs: Do you use a Smart TV?

    1. a.

      If yes:

      Why do you use a Smart TV?

      What are you doing with the Smart TV?

      Which advantages do you see in the usage of Smart TVs?

      In your opinion, which negative consequences can result from using Smart TVs?

      Which disadvantages do you see in the usage of Smart TVs?

    2. b.

      If not:

      Why not?

      Which disadvantages do you see in the usage of Smart TVs?

      In your opinion, which negative consequences can result from using Smart TVs?

      Are there, nevertheless, any advantages in the usage of Smart TVs?

Part II – Ranking of the psychological needs [11]

The same questions were asked separately for each digital application:

  1. a.

    Why is it important to fulfill… (need)?

  2. b.

    What does (need) mean to you?

  3. c.

    What fulfills (need)?

  4. d.

    Which actions/events fulfill (need)?

  5. e.

    Can you give an example, where (need) is fulfilled?

  6. f.

    Is (need) already fulfilled or is it rather a wish than a need that is already fulfilled?

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Published Online: 2020-01-14
Published in Print: 2019-11-18

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston