Flow in Computer-Mediated Environments: Promises and Challenges

Christina M. Finneran, Syracuse University


This paper provides a critical review to analyze the promises and important challenges of studying flow, a psychological state, in the computer-mediated environments (CME). Despite the strong interest in IS, HCI, Marketing, Education, and other research disciplines over more than a decade, adapting the phenomenon of flow to computer users shows high inconsistencies and discrepancies in the literature. In addition, few studies attempt to provide a coherent picture of the area. Based on a careful examination of the literature, we identify both conceptual and methodological challenges faced when studying flow in CME. Although not all challenges are resolved, we point out directions and possible solutions for some challenges and call for more studies in this promising area. The paper further discusses implications for research in human computing behavior in general and in flow in particular. It cautions researchers to examine hidden assumptions of theories in other disciplines before applying them to address IT related issues and concerns.