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Technological Diffusion or Cultural Imperialism?

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image of International Journal of Comparative Sociology
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The modern information revolution, dating from the 1970s, offers the possibility of a true "global village." However, it could also exacerbate existing cultural fault lines, particularly between North and South, and between English-speaking and non-English-speaking populations. I first conceptualize the multidimensional term "informationalization" and then measure its various dimensions among the G-7 nations. Three major results flow from the analysis. First, the information revolution is still very much in its beginning stages. Few workers are employed directly in computing, and revenues from the industry contribute only marginally to each country's economy. Although there is a sizeable information technology (IT) infrastructure in place within the G-7 nations, just a small fraction of the general populace actually uses computers, and fewer are connected to the Internet. Second, the information revolution is largely concentrated within the G-7 countries: only five of them account for over 80% of the IT market. Third, analysis of the Internet, the worldwide network of personal computers connected to host computers, reveals that it is overwhelmingly American-based, English-speaking, and Western-focused. Thus, the information revolution could presage the rapid and widespread transmission of information in a culture-laden, asymmetrical way. The paper concludes by calling for international dialogue on how information technology could be introduced in culturally harmonious ways.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada V8W 3P5


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