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Exposure to the Internet

Robert J. Lunn and Michael W. Suman


How has the spread of the → Internet been studied and explained? Numerous studies have established that the diffusion of Internet access follows an S-shaped curve. What is not well understood is the factors responsible for different levels of Internet access among different countries (→ Digital Divide ; Media Use, International Comparison of ). Many theories of the diffusion of innovations, such as the Bass model, focus on individual factors, such as perceived need ( Bass 1969 ; → Diffusion of Information and Innovation ; Media Use by Social Variable ). The inadequacy of this theoretical stance becomes readily apparent when we consider that cultures exhibiting low levels of gender empowerment deny Internet access to half of their populations. This example of the influence of culture also illustrates that adoption of the Internet is affected by factors beyond simple exposure to the technology. What are the theoretical and methodological problems with the current approach to cross-country studies of the Internet diffusion process? A common misconception, termed the pro-innovation bias , occurs when researchers assume that innovations, such as the Internet, will eventually be adopted by all members of a social system ( Rogers & Shoemaker 1971 ). Related aspects of a pro-innovation bias concern attitudes that rapid diffusion is superior to slower diffusion and that innovations ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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