Has the Internet Reduced Friendship? Scientific Relationships in Ghana, Kenya, and India, 1994-2010

Science, Technology, and Human Values 42 (3):491-519 (2017)
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Abstract

Has the Internet changed the pattern of social relations? More specifically, have social relations undergone any systematic change during the recent widespread diffusion of new communications technology? This question is addressed using a unique longitudinal survey that bookends the entire period of Internet diffusion in two African nations and one Indian state. We analyze data on nine professional linkages reported by a population of agricultural and environmental scientists in Kenya, Ghana, and Kerala over a sixteen-year period. Factor analysis reveals two clusters of relationships, one interpretable as traditional scientific exchange, the other indicating mediated forms of collaboration. While collaboration increases in frequency, friendship declines. We interpret this shift as a consequence of communications technology that facilitates formal projects, reducing the affective dimension of professional association.

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