The Web Use Project is Eszter Hargittai’s research group at the University of Zurich. The core focus of the work in this group is on how people use the Internet and other digital media in their everyday lives and in particular, how differences in their skills and digital media uses may contribute to social inequality, broadly defined.

Started during Hargittai’s Ph.D. studies at Princeton University (1997-2003), continued while she was faculty at Northwestern University (2003-2016), the group is currently housed at the Institute of Communication and Media Research of the University of Zurich.

Current studies include research on the following:

  • Web-use skill differences and how these relate to differentiated online activities
  • Variation in online participation such as Wikipedia editing, contributions to StackOverflow, online reviewing, and other contributory activities.
  • Political participation and civic engagement (both online and offline)
  • Health information seeking (both online and offline)
  • Conducting job searches (both online and offline)
  • Keeping up on goings-on in the world (both online and offline)
  • The adoption of social network sites and other online services
  • Information seeking for everyday tasks
  • Methodological issues related to the study of the above questions
  • Interventions to improve people's Web-use skills

The group hosts several graduate students and undergraduate research assistants in addition to project staff and occasional visitors and interns.

The research involves whatever methodology is best suited to answer questions of interest including both quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis. Much of our current work has relied on surveys, in-person observations of people’s Web usage, and interviews. We have collected several unique data sets, but also draw on secondary sources when appropriate (e.g., we have worked with the Current Population Survey’s Computer and Internet Use Supplement, and Hargittai was part of the team that worked on the General Social Survey’s Internet Module).

The research has been made possible by generous support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the US National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, gifts from Nokia, Google, Facebook, and Merck (MSD outside of the US and Canada). We also appreciate the institutional support of the University of Zurich (and previously Princeton and Northwestern Universities).