chapter  9
Contextualizing home computing
Pages 14

Along with the video cassette recorder, the Walkman and the compact disc player, home computers were one of the most conspicuous consumer products of the 1980s. From their first appearance at the beginning of the decade, they attracted an increasing amount of research aimed at finding out who was entering the domestic micro market and who wasn’t, identifying barriers to adoption and how they might be overcome, and exploring what people were actually doing with their machines. This work, which began in the United States but spread rapidly to other advanced economies, employed a variety of methods, ranging from nationwide surveys (e.g. Danko and MacLachlan 1983) to studies of early adopters and computer enthusiasts (e.g. Dickerson and Gentry 1983; Hall et al. 1985) and ethnographies of computer households (e.g. Tinnell 1985). But beneath the differences of approach, virtually all these studies were united in viewing home computing activity in a radically decontextualized way. They shared this myopia with much of the new reception analysis that was emerging within mass media research over the same period (see Murdock 1989). Both currents of work focused on the practical activities of audiences and users but took little account of the way these activities were structured by the resources that consumers could draw upon, or were excluded from.