Information Inequality and Network Externalities: A Comparative Study of the Diffusion of Television and the Internet

Publication Date:
Feb 2020
Project Programs:
Social, Political, and Economic Inequality

We have three goals for this paper. First, we want to bring the economic construct of network externalities into sociological analysis of technological inequality,
while at the same time inflecting it sociologically. Second, we will sketch a comparative model explaining variation in the diffusion patterns of different communications technologies, in order to place the Internet case in a broader theoretical and empirical context. Third, we present findings from a comparative analysis of household adoption of television from 1948 to 1957 and the Internet from 1994 to 2002 that cast light on the extent to which intergroup inequality in Internet access is likely to persist as the diffusion process continues.


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