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Macro - Macro Emergence: The Internet as a Cultural Institution

  • Author(s): Pearce, Matthew
  • Advisor(s): Schofer, Evan
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Public License
Abstract

The incredible rate of worldwide internet growth should lead us to question the macro level social mechanisms that cause it. These chapters propose that instead of conceptualizing the internet as just a technology or media, we should consider its similarities to education or other globalized social institutions. The internet is shaped by globalized ideas, developed in a globalized world, and is part of a world society of legitimated practices. From the global level of analysis, I argue that we can observe institutional emergence from the engineering documents that define internet protocols and the cultural rationalization employed in United Nations actions to define symbolic meaning. From the national level of analysis, I use panel linear modeling to demonstrate that links to globalized ideas through international non-governmental organizations cause the expansion of internet users within a country. As a supportive globalized institution, I use similar panel linear models to analyze the aspects of democracy which cause internet expansion: the role of autocracy relative to democracy, and compare how expansion occurs in countries with differing levels of civil liberties and political rights. As additional analysis in appendices, I develop models which find support for the theory that universities play a role as receptor sites of world cultural norms to explain the growth of the internet. Evidence here supports the idea that the internet is a site where we can observe world societal diffusion and the macro level emergence of a social institution. In order to understand world society, we should look to the internet as a research site. In order to understand the growth of the internet, we should identify the ways in which the internet is institutionalized.

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