Digital Age/Technology Acceptance Model
Predicting when – and understanding why – users accept a new technology or system is a major issue for Information Systems (IS) researchers. Web sites, as one example, have as a key feature their interactivity. But for them to work users must choose to interact with the site. And thus web developers should always keep in mind the factors which would encourage such choice being made. Various models have been proposed which purport to predict or explain the level of acceptance that users may have for a new system, and thus, in the case of web sites, the likelihood that they will engage with and use the site. One of the more influential models is the Technology Acceptance Model, or TAM as it is more commonly known.
TAM Version 1
According to TAM, whether or not an individual is inclined to use a given product is dependent on two factors – the perceived usefulness of the system, and the perceived ease of use. Davis defines perceived usefulness as:
- "[T]he degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would enhance his or her job performance." (Davis, 1989, pp 320)
It is interesting that Davis chooses to tie "usefulness" to work, but this doesn't appear to be a necessary aspect of the definition. The other key factor, perceived ease of use, is defined by Davis as:
- "[T]he degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would be free of effort" (Davis, 1989, pp 320)
This is a more straight-forward definition, and doesn’t tend to raise significant concerns. However, it is worth noting the "believes" part of the two definitions. What is significant here is not the actuality – whether the system really is easy to use or is genuinely useful – but how the user perceives these aspects of the system.
These two factors – perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness – combine to form an "intention to use". Based on the presence of such an intention, the user will have a particular attitude towards using the system. And this attitude will affect their actual system use. This is modeled in Figure 1. Figure 1 also includes a connection between perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use – TAM argues that the degree of usefulness is, in part, dependent upon how easy the system is to use. A system which is difficult to use is simply not going to be very useful, as it will take too much effort to reap the rewards. Figure 1 also shows two other interesting aspects: first, it is clear that perceived usefulness not only directly influences a person’s intent to use the system (BI) but that it also directly affects someone’s attitude to the system; and second, both the perception of usefulness and the perception of ease of use will be influenced by external factors (an issue which is explored in more detail in TAM2).
In practice, TAM tells us that we need to make sure that any given system finds the correct level of each of these two factors. A system that is extremely useful may, for example, be accepted by users, even if it is difficult to use. Equally, a system that is not particularly useful may still be employed if it is very easy to use. But a system which receives high marks for both perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness is one that will tend to be the most readily accepted. Real world examples abound: personally, I’ve never found eBay to be particularly easy to use, yet it is so useful that I’m willing to put the effort into working with the system, in spite of the difficulties that it entails. Google is both very easy to use and extremely useful: a combination which led it to become the most widely used search engine online. And, until the recent redesign, the Channel Nine website always seemed to me to be neither particularly useful (in terms of what I wanted it to do) nor easy to use, and thus I chose to go elsewhere when looking for information.
The "External Variables" in Figure 1 are interesting. As pointed out by Moon & Kim, Davis "argued that future technology acceptance research needs to address how other variables affect usefulness, ease of use, and user acceptance" (Moon & Kim, 2001, pp 217). These are the external variables in TAM, and the exploration of these was a task that many researchers were happy to undertake. Moon & Kim (2001) went on to explore the issue of "playfulness", while Lin & Lu (2000), in applying TAM to web sites, look at "IS quality" as a factor for both perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use, focusing on three aspects: information quality, response time and system accessibility.
In 2000, Venkatesh and Davis offered TAM2: an extension of the original TAM which adds additional factors which may influence the perceived usefulness of a system. This extended model is presented in Figure 2.
Figure 2 will go here
Venkatesh and Davis define "Subjective Norm" as, effectively, "peer pressure' – if other people believe that someone should use (or not use) a given system, that person’s willingness to use it will be affected.
- Voluntariness is the degree to which a person may choose to use (or not use) a given system. For example, enrolling online at a university is not something which is particularly voluntary – if you wish to attend the university you may have to enroll online, whether or not you wish to. But using a discussion forum may be voluntary. (Unless, of course, a mark is attached to your use of the forum, in which case it becomes less voluntary).
- Image refers to how a person is seen within a group – if using a system is good for his or her "image", the person may perceive the system as being "more useful" than otherwise.
- Experience refers to ongoing use of a given system – the more experience someone has, the more likely they are to continue to use it.
- Job relevance returns to the earlier definition of "perceived usefulness" in TAM – if something is clearly relevant to a person’s job, they will view it as "more useful" than something which isn’t.
- How well the system performs tasks is measured as "output quality" by Venkatesh and Davis (2000, pp 191). A system that performs well is likely to be seen as more useful that a system which does not, all else being equal.
- Finally, result demonstrability refers to the degree by which the benefits of using a system can be seen.
- Can you think of some popular technologies and fit them into this equation. Are they easy to use? Are they useful?
- Can something be both difficult to use and not very useful, yet still accepted? If so, why do you think they are employed?
- Let's consider some specific technologies - how do they fit into this scheme?
- SMS on mobile phones
- Driving a car
- Wikipedia/Wikiversity (for reading)
- Wikipedia/Wikiversity (for writing/editing)
- In each case, is there a possible distinction between "perceived" usefulness and ease of use, as opposed to "actual" usefulness and ease of use?
- Sometimes TAM (especially version 1) seems remarkably simple. Is it possible that the model is too simple to be useful? IN which case, could TAM fail TAM?
- Both models seem to be missing any notion of fun - perhaps some technologies are successful because they are enjoyable. Should fun be included in the models, or is it already encompassed within them?
- Perceptions are either builds up collecting tangibles and intangibles of technologies. Driving factors for people to shape the perception activly (both positive and negative) tend to be inflenced by Personal belief, Organisational Norm, Degree of personal involvement towards the generic and specific areas of technonlogies (assuming technology as Tangible and Intangible). IF we borrowing notion of perception, the model should understand dynamics of PECEPTION build, change and some being fixated. Well, there can be strong attitude built, related to the desired perception for the given tech, there is a job to be done how to inflence those attitudes in conjuction with full adoption by one individual and goups of such individuals. How can we add this complexity into the model?
- Davis, F. (1989) "Perceived Usefulness, Perceived Ease of Use, And User Acceptance of Information Quality", MIS Quarterly, September 1989, pp 318-340.
- Davis, F. Bagozzi, R. & Warshaw, P. (1989) "User Acceptance of Computer Technology: A Comparison of Two Theoretical Models" Management Science, 35:8, pp 982-1003.
- Lin, J. & Lu, H. (2000). "Towards an understanding of the behavioural intention to use a web site" International Journal of Information management, 20, pp 197-208.
- Moon, J. & Kim, Y. (2001). "Extending the TAM for a World-Wide-Web context" Information and Management 38, pp 217-230.
- Venkatesh, V. & Davis, F. (2000) "A Theoretical Extension of the Technology Acceptance Model: Four Longitudinal Field Studies" Management Science, 46:2, pp 186-204.