Americans consider technology a mixed blessing — regardless of their access to it — according to a broad survey released Monday on the technology people have, how they use it and what they think about it.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project found adult Americans were broadly divided into three groups: 31 per cent are frequent users of multiple technologies, 20 per cent are moderate users and the remainder have little or no access to the internet or cellphones.

But the study found deep divides within each group when it came to their opinion of technology, from wholesale adoption to apathy and mistrust.

John Horrigan, Pew's associate director, said he assumed at the beginning of the survey thatpeople with more gadgets would be more likely to embrace technology.

"Once we got done, we were surprised to find the tensions within groups of users with information technology," Horrigan said.

Frequent users of mobile and internet technologies were fairly evenly split among four groups:

  • "Omnivores," who arepredominately male and embrace the most gadgets and services and participate in Web 2.0 activities such as blogging or managing their own Web pages.
  • "Connectors," who consider the internet and cell phones useful communication tools.
  • "Productivity enhancers," who mostly use the internet at work.
  • "Lacklustre veterans," who use high-tech communication tools because they must and aren't enamoured with it.

Moderate users were likewise divided between cellphone-carrying "mobile centrics" and "connected but hassled" people, who find technology burdensome.

Of the remaining respondents, 34 per cent had little access to communication technology and 15 per cent were "off the network," with neither cellphones nor internet access.

"We find that there are differences in use and attitudes among people even when they own the same devices," said the report, entitled A Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users.

"Those who want to generalize about where Americans stand with technology may obscure the true picture of the role of technology in American life more than illuminate it."

The telephone study of 4,001 U.S. adults, including 2,822 internet users, was conducted Feb. 15 to April 6, 2006, and has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

With files from the Associated Press