Sociotechnological Changes Chance and Risk for Nonreactive Measurement

One reason why we have chosen to describe nonreactive online research in more detail is because this field has recently expanded very quickly and will soon lead to a multitude of new nonreactive research strategies that offer analyses of incomparable potency with regard to the availability of information and the efficiency of analysis. The other reason can be found in the exemplary character this type of research has on the influence that technological developments may exert on the development of nonreactive measurement. However, access to information has also increased due to societal rather than technological developments. In Wim Wender's 1991 science fiction movie Until the End of the World, the protagonist can only be found by his pursuers on his voyage around the world because of their access to his bank card data. Now, 15 years later, the inhabitants of industrialized societies are accustomed to a broad variety of relatively new technological equipment including satellite navigation for private cars, health insurance data cards, or globally operational mobile phones, all producing additional traces of behavior that can be gathered and analyzed fairly well by "researchers" of different affiliations. Beyond technological developments, a strong need for security in many industrialized societies seems to further increase the recording of individual data (e.g., security cameras at public places). Although systematic access to this kind of data is often restricted, it can be both a valuable source for nonreactive research (e.g., Brizer, Crowner, Convit, & Volavka, 1988) as well as a serious danger for individual freedom by data abuse. A related question is whether an awareness of increased data recording or even surveillance will change the public and semipublic behavior of individuals. Although people will not become chronically self-presenting inhabitants of a reality TV show, they might behave in a more self-focused (Carver & Scheier, 1981) and socially desirable way when they enter settings where surveillance is salient or even feared, for example in an airport's departure area or in a nonsmoking subway station.

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