Past, Present and Future of Research in the Information Society

pp 193-211

Global Internet Research

  • William H. DuttonAffiliated withOxford Internet Institute
  • , Rick B. DuqueAffiliated withWorld Science Project
  • , Jeremy HunsingerAffiliated withCenter for Digital Discourse and Culture

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Research on the social impacts of Internet technologies has garnered much attention and in some cases controversy over the past decade. Early studies sounded the alarm that the Internet was creating a nation of “netnerds”, accelerating the decline of social involvement in modern society. Others claimed that it may be exasperating the digital divide and thus increasing global economic inequality. Studies looking at its impact on research capacity are recent and more difficult to assess, since the Internet’s rise maps the explosion of western science and engineering over the last quarter century. The issue of the ‘egg or the chicken’ come to mind when determining which one drove which first. There is consensus though that the Internet has provided substantial support to cross-national collaborations in the west by reducing the problems associated with shared work over distances. It is also argued that digital archives and online publishing have facilitated, as they have accelerated, scientific productivity and communication. Recent studies have ventured outside the west, where the Internet was born and continues to be innovated, to the developing world and the newly democratized eastern European nations. Outside the west, methodological issues of causality become more manageable just as perhaps sampling and measurement become more contested.