The Role of Expertise in Navigating Links of Influence

Authors: Eszter Hargittai

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Citation: Hargittai, E. (2008). The Role of Expertise in Navigating Links of Influence. In The Hyperlinked Society. Edited by Joseph Turow and Lokman Tsui. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press. 85-103.


In this essay, I focus on how the influence of links may be mediated by the skills and expertise associated with using the Internet both from the content producer’s and the content viewer’s perspective. My main argument is that while lots of factors influence how links are presented on the Web and how users’ respond to the content that shows up on their screens, an important and understudied aspect of navigating links of influence concerns people’s Internet user abilities. Both content creators and content users (readers, listeners, viewers) can benefit from a more in-depth understanding of how the Web works. Since such skills are not randomly distributed among the population, certain content providers and content users stand a better chance of benefiting from the medium than others. Relevant know-how will help producers attract attention to their materials. Savvy about the medium will assist users in sidestepping potentially misleading and malicious content.


  • Why links matter
  • Link types and manipulation
  • Search engine manipulations
  • User expertise with links
  • General user savvy
  • Understanding search engine rankings
  • Links in emails
  • Discussion


The author would like to thank Joe Turow and Lokman Tsui for helpful comments, and Ann Feldman and Tom Moss for supporting the study at UIC. She appreciates the assistance of Waleeta Canon, Laurell Sims, Gina Walejko and Dan Li with data collection. The author is also grateful to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Northwestern University Research Grants Committee, the Northwestern School of Communication Innovation Fund and the Northwestern Department of Communication Research Fund for their support. She is also indebted to the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and the Lenore Annenberg and Wallis Annenberg Fellowship in Communications for the time and intellectual environment provided to work on this paper.

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