UCLA Spotlight


Jeff Cole, Internet Study

  • By Harlan Lebo
  • Published Oct 23, 2000 8:00 AM

“We can love or hate the Internet,” says Jeff Cole, “but there’s no question that its impact is real and profound, with the potential to become the defining technology of a generation.”

For Cole, who has studied and taught about communications at UCLA for more than 20 years, the Internet represents the opportunity to explore a powerful technology as it evolves – an opportunity that was missed by an earlier generation of researchers when television was born. Cole is director of UCLA’s Center for Communication Policy.

“Had television been studied as it emerged in the late 1940s, the information would have provided policy makers, the media, and ultimately historians with invaluable insights about how broadcasting has changed the world,” Cole said.

To that end, Cole created the World Internet Project, which includes as its cornerstone the UCLA Internet Report as well as partner projects in 21 countries.

The UCLA Internet Report, titled “Surveying the Digital Future,” created a baseline profile of behavior and attitudes about both Internet users and non-users: what users are doing online, media use and trust, consumer behavior, communication patterns, and social and psychological effects.

“Our objective is to ensure that the UCLA Internet Project and its yearly report capitalize on the opportunity that was missed as television evolved,” Cole said. “This way we can better understand the effects of the Internet as it grows, and not as a postscript after it has already matured.”

With support from the National Science Foundation, America Online, Microsoft, Disney, Sony, Verizon, Pacific Bell, DirecTV, Merrill Lynch, and the National Cable Television Association, the study focuses on 2,096 respondents who will be contacted each year to explore how Internet technology evolves for continuing users, those who remain non-users, and those who move from being non-users to users.

“In the first year of the UCLA Project, we created a detailed ‘snapshot’ of the Internet in America,” said Cole. “With next year’s project, we will begin to create a more vivid ‘moving picture’ of users and non-users.”

Under Cole’s direction, the UCLA Center for Communication Policy also conducted three annual studies of violence on network television for the 1996-97, 1995-96 and 1994-95 seasons. The studies found that violence in network television series declined, but that a new source of intense violence – “shockumentary” realty-based specials – increased dramatically. Overall, the center found a trend toward less violence on network television.

UCLA students, graduates and undergraduates, worked with the center on both the UCLA Internet Report and the UCLA Television Violence Reports.

In July 2004, Jeff Cole left UCLA and joined the USC Annenberg School for Communication as Director of the Center for the Digital Future. -(Updated 1/07)