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Title: The political economy of the internet system evolution
Author: Kim, Byung-Keun.
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 2002
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This thesis focuses on the evolution of the Internet system. It examines the dynamics of competing and collaborating technologies in the invention and development of computer networking technologies in general. In particular, it examines the negotiations among social groups with different economic and political interests in designing the Internet system. This system has been shaped by competition and collaboration between the US and other countries (other regions) reflecting their different institutional arrangements in the telecommunications sector and the dynamics of uneven power relationships. Population dynamics, i.e. similarities and differences in the growth and pervasiveness of the Internet system between regions and countries, are also examined to uncover how the co-evolution between technological system and social, cultural, and economic systems countries influenced by global and local interplay. This thesis combines techno-economic and socio-technological approaches in technology studies to address the 'localisation' of a technological system, how a system adapted to or was influenced by the local context of its application. This research focuses on empirical evidence about the evolution of the Internet system, recognizing that the Internet system is one instance of a large technological system. In addition, the political economy perspective provides a foundation for an integrated analysis of the local situation and the wider power structure which illustrates the economic and political interests that are embedded in the design and development of the Internet system. The main research questions are how have political and economic interests shaped the evolution of the Internet system and why does the outcome of the Internet system's development vary across countries? The Internet system emerged from one of the early experimental computer networks in the US, the UK and France during the development of packet switching technology and it involved mainly computer scientists. The development of packet switching technologies has been shaped by battles for control between network operators and computer manufacturers as a consequence of technological convergence; and between telecommunication operators and advanced users (e.g. computer engineers and scientists in the case of the Internet system) in the process of institutional change in telecommunications sector. The analysis shows how these battles were guided by different interests and strategies between, notably, the US and European countries. The analysis of the population dynamics of Internet system development confirms its uneven development between countries following regional, economic and cultural routes. It also confirms that the international spread of the Internet network is influenced by different choices of ICTs and non-linear relationships between competing technologies. The sources of uneven development of the Internet system are founded in the global expansion of the Internet system. These sources are shown to include: asymmetric development of research networks between regions and countries, the effects of the different economic and political interests of the US (and European countries) in connecting the Internet to other countries and regions, the US-centered network design and the international financial settlement regime for the Internet in addition to the existing technological and economic gaps and cultural differences between countries that influence the localisation of the Internet system. The empirical findings that emerge from the econometric modelling demonstrate that knowledge production and distribution capabilities, global integration efforts, economic strength and equality of income distribution, size of social system, telecommunication policies, science and technology policies, prices for access and using of the Internet, all influence the localisation of the Internet system. The thesis contests many accounts of the diffusion of the Internet that are based on 'technological inevitability' and the 'universality' of the technical methods chosen.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Social shaping/large technical system Economics Management Communication