Spiekermann, Sarah: Online Information Search with Electronic Agents: Drivers, Impediments, and Privacy Issues



This thesis would not be in existence if it were not for a number of outstanding mentors, colleagues and students. First of all, I would like to thank my advisor, Prof. Oliver Günther (Institute of Information Systems), for his guidance and unfaltering support. I am also deeply indebted to Dr. Martin Strobel from the International Institute of Infonomics. His support was multifarious, including advice on the experimental set-up of the empirical parts of this thesis, and advice relating to data analysis. He also programmed the experimental store. Dr. Dirk Annacker (Institute of Marketing) made a similar contribution, challenging the development of the information search model and the private information cost index. Dr Annacker also assisted actively in the estimation of structural equation models reported on in chapters 4 and 6 of this thesis.

Dr. Bettina Berendt (Institute of Information Systems) was invaluable for the development and structuring of the privacy analysis developed in chapter 6 and also helpful in data mining. Jens Großklags (master student) provided invaluable organisational assistance regarding the experimental sessions, and then in working on the analysis of privacy clusters (chapter 6). Finally, Prof. Dan Ariely (MIT Sloan School of Management) offered initial guidance, and the impetus required for the experiment to be set up as a real-world shopping trip. Dr. Jörn Altmann (HP Labs) and Corina Parachiv (Ecole Normale Supèrieure de Cachan) offered further advice.

I am also extremely grateful to Dr. Björn Rupp (Arthur D. Little), Ian Dickinson (HP Labs), Carsten Pohle (Institute of Information Systems, Handelshochschule Leipzig) and Richard Cayzer who provided valuable proof reading. Finally, I do not want to forget to mention the students from Humboldt University who supported this project. Kai-Uwe Ruhse was especially helpful. He assisted Dr. Strobel in the programming of the experimental store. Thilo Zelt and Nikoletta Kiss spent a great deal of time marketing the experiment and securing participants. The Institute of Economic Theory (headed by Prof. Werner Güth) allowed for the use of laboratory and student resources and gave the opportunity to challenge experimental set-up and results in the frame of department seminars.


In financial terms, the generosity of Karstadt Quelle New Media (KQNM) was crucial for the entire experiment. Moreover, the company offered access to their sales representatives at the KaDeWe store in Berlin, and to use their product portfolio for the experimental store. Without the support of Karstadt Quelle, the experiment would not have been possible. Further thanks also go to the company Artificial Life for lending me their 3-D images of agent Luci. And, last but not least, to the NaFög scholarship programme which offered financial support throughout.

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