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For Jon Are Storløkken



User Interaction in Electronic Commerce

Configuring the webmaster/user??


My intention for my masters thesis is to focus on user-interaction aspects of electronic commerce over open networks i.e. the internet. In my thesis I will be focusing exclusively on business-to-consumer relationships.

How is user interaction shaping the development of electronic commerce?

How is the concept of interactivity itself shaping the development of electronic commerce?

The internet has expanded rapidly in its 10 years of existence, but in its early phase was non-commercial or even anti-commercial. Today, this is changing and electronic commerce is one of the drivers of technological change relating to the internet. In STS terminology the net is still very much in flux and open to a considerable degree of interpretive flexibility. It is being constituted through the interaction of multiple actors and interests. Many of these are producers and purveyors of software, hardware and consultancy services related to electronic commerce while another important group is the customers/users. Some actors will also occupy multiple roles. The general idea underlying my thesis research will be a constructivist analysis of the on-going evolution of internet commerce.

I see the concept of user interaction and feedback as useful on two levels, where one is the macro level designating the development of the internet more in general, where not least the W3 and IETF play important roles. This level includes such technologies as HTML, HTTP, SET, SSL, various electronic payment schemes and perhaps also hardware components such as the MMX and Pentium III chips with instructions designed to enhance multimedia/web type of operations, perhaps also design tools and programming/ scripting languages such as DHTML,Java, Javascript and XML. I will here need to be somewhat brief and focus on some cases that bear especially on what comes later.

On the micro-level it involves more the running and building of a commercial web-site designated for some specific theme, event, brand, product, place, etc. A focus on user interaction would then focus on how web-sites interacts with users which feedback mechanisms are involved and how this is incorporated into the development of the site. How are the users/consumers voting with their mouses and keyboards on what will be the firms and forms that dominate e-commerce in the future.

It could also investigate the sorts of links those responsible for the making of the site have with producers of hardware or software producers alternatively makers of other sites and how they affect and are affected by these people.

It would be a part of a larger picture where many small streams turn into a big river.

The question of the role of user interaction itself is one of the featutes that are up "for review" by the internet community, although so far it has proved to be extremely popular.

An open question is to some extent how much this would involve questions of design, function, usability and how much it would involve economic questions regarding the value proposition offered and marketing tactics.

My aim is to pick sites that have been developed from a web community model of e-commerce. The web community model represents one model of how to do business on the internet although it is also recognized as difficult to build up the sort of interest and traffic that is necessary to sustain a web community. My reasons for choosing this topic or why I want to target these kinds of sites is that it represents a very information and interaction rich environment where user "use" and user comfort, enjoyment is absolutely essential. The web community could highlight the evolution of the web and computer technology in general because of the importance of the web as one very much centered on information exchange, interaction, "community" in the sense of meeting other people.


Identifying good litterature is a problem. (see below)

Key debates in e-commerce:



Business model

Capturing customer data

Metatheme- trust, "stickiness"


Introduction/ Definition

General Outline of Electronic Commerce/ Internet

-definition of electronic commerce

-development history



User Interaction in electronic commerce

-internet as an interactive medium

-different forms of user interaction



-user/producer, user/user interaction

-the business model/value proposition


-information added

-is technology the driving force?

-customization, monitoring users

Analysis of Web Sites




-broadcast/interaction model


Webonomics, Evan Schwartz

Net Gain, John Hagel III

articles from the net, magazines, newspapers relating to the development of the web in general, electronic commerce more specifically and stuff relating to e-commerce strategy, design, business model, etc.

I am hoping that some more written material of academic/high standard can be produced, relating either directly to my thesis or user aspects and design more generally.

Have identified one interesting book on web communities which I hope to have in hand in not too long.

A problem with this area of research is that it it relatively new and therefore not much is written about it, and the quality of what is available is often poor, far removed from academic standards. The area is also in such rapid change that what has been written more than 1-2 years ago is likely to be outdated. I am hoping that this to some degree can be compensated by books from related areas and through piecing the picture together from what is available.


My sources will be books, and other written material. My general framework will emerge from this littearture based research. I will also be drawing upon my own experiences with and analysis of the web, or more exactly, some parts of it that are yet to be specified. Finally, I aim to conduct interviews in person or through mail with webmasters or other people involved with the sites that I choose to analyze. I am not expecting to draw any statistically significant conclusions based on my research but I do hope my research will identify some key issues and arguments. I think a case-study is particularly appropriate considering the relative newness of the web and the rapid rate of change it is experiencing.


April/May: choose sites to study, start analyzing them, prepare questions, find more/better litterature,

June: start interviews, start writing general parts

July: systematize results from research, write this out

August: Prepare thesis

September: finish chapters and work on conclusions



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