The geography of global Internet hyperlink networks and cultural content analysis
Chung, Chung Joo
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This research is concerned with the changing network topology of contemporary cyberspace generated by the World Wide Web. First, it focuses on the longitudinal developments in online global space using the hyperlinked relations among web-based contents located in different countries at two different points in time (2003 and 2009). Second, based on the assumption that decomposing .com leads to a more accurate description of the international hyperlink network, it proposes a method for decomposing .com, applies the proposed procedure, and investigates the differences between two international hyperlink networks--one including .com data and the other excluding .com. Third, hyperlinked websites linked to .com are analyzed based on their characteristics, languages, and affiliations. Network analysis results indicated that the 2009 international hyperlink network was completely interconnected. G7 countries and Spain were at the center of the network. At the periphery were poorer countries from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In addition, several regional clusters based on geography, language, and culture emerged. A comparison of the 2003 and 2009 results showed that the level of both centralization of advanced countries and diversification among semi-peripheral countries increased. However, the adjusted international hyperlink network showed substantial differences in the centrality of several countries that make extensive use of .com. The hyperlink network of websites with outgoing hyperlinks to .com websites indicated the dominant centrality of the USA, whereas that of those with incoming hyperlinks from .com websites illustrated a core-periphery structure centered around the USA and other superpowers. This research has several implications that are consistent with world-systems theory for the study of international telecommunications and globalization. First, the structural position of a country determined its potential for development and its interaction patterns. Second, the structural position of a country reflected its interaction with other countries through political, economical, or regional linkages or alliances. Third, the relationships among countries and the structure of global internet hyperlink networks were relatively stable. Fourth, regional, cultural and linguistic groupings in hyperlink networks illustrated several important features of the alternative network structure of contemporary global circumstances and the possible routes for the transnational telecommunications network under the pluralistic world-systems environment. Fifth, the increasing use of .com websites by other countries to obtain information, news or knowledge from American websites hyperlinked to their websites, showed the cultural centralization, convergence, homophily and globalization of the USA on the Web. Future research should define individual countries as nodes in the hyperlink network in a more precise manner. For example, ccTLDs of Canada, Germany, and Indonesia overlap U.S. states California, Georgia, and Indiana, respectively. Although the portion of other gTLDs is slight compared to .com, including them should allow for a less biased description of the structure of Internet hyperlink network.