Internet Geographer


Posts tagged disintermediation
New paper published: "Disintermediation, Altered Chains and Altered Geographies: The Internet in the Thai Silk Industry"

My paper on disintermediation and altered geographies in the Thai silk industry has just been published. The paper can be downloaded from the link below:

Disintermediation, Altered Chains and Altered Geographies: The Internet in the Thai Silk Industry

The Thai silk industry is in a worrying position. For centuries the industry has provided economic support to hundreds of thousands of people in the northeast of Thailand and become a part of the region’s cultural heritage. However, the industry is now dying largely because of uncompetitive nature of the silk being produced. This paper therefore examines one of the most widely touted development strategies: the use of the internet to both expand markets and disintermediate commodity chains. Using surveys and interviews, this study examines the geographic and topological effects that the internet has had in the value chains of Thai silk.

Justifying Virtual Presence in the Thai Silk Industry: Links Between Data and Discourse

I am happy to report that my paper titled “Justifying Virtual Presence in the Thai Silk Industry: Links Between Data and Discourse” has just been published in the latest edition of Information Technologies & International Development. Download the paper at the link above, or take a look at the abstract below:

This article examines some of the discourses being put forward as justifications for Internet use and altered commodity chains in the Thai silk industry. Those discourses are then compared to data on the relationship between the Internet and prices and wages. The article specifically looks at claims about who is benefiting from value chain reconfigurations, and then it compares those claims to insights about the Thai silk industry collected using a series of surveys and in-depth interviews. The article demonstrates that claims are put forth that altered commodity chain topologies will necessarily result in an accrual of economic and cultural benefits for producers and/or consumers. However, there is little empirical proof that the integration of the Internet into the Thai silk industry is having any noticeable effect on prices or wages.

The Cultural Wealth of Nations
I just got word that I will be contributing a chapter to a forthcoming book called “The Cultural Wealth of Nations.” The volume (edited by Nina Bandelj and Frederick Wherry) will bring together the work of twelve contributors (most of whom presented papers at a conference organized by the editors in March) in order to address the following question:

How do the symbolic qualities of places shape economic activities? As the summaries from three cases outlined above suggest, symbolic resources affect social, cultural, and economic development. Indeed, the value of being made in America or made in Italy depends not only on the material advantages each place offers but also the symbolic resources embedded in the places of production. While some economists, economic sociologists, and political economists have expanded their inquiries of development to include social networks/social capital, they have done less to account for the symbolic resources that enhance or dampen development efforts.

The abstract for my chapter in the book proposal is as follows:

Mark Graham presents a detailed case study of commodity chains in the Thai silk industry and focuses specifically on attempts to reinvigorate the slowly dying practice of silk production in northeastern Thailand. Producers of Thai silk usually live in poverty, whilst intermediaries are able to capture the bulk of value. As such, development strategies often revolve around eliminating intermediaries on the commodity chains of silk and bringing weavers into a global virtual marketplace. By contrasting chains that have been altered by the internet (e-commerce) with those that have not, this chapter demonstrates that the internet is rarely being used to successfully disintermediate commodity chains. Value within the Thai silk industry is most often created by intermediaries with a detailed knowledge of foreign customer tastes, marketing strategies, and distribution outlets, rather than simple topological alterations to commodity chains. Therefore, for most weavers, it is the detailed knowledge of intermediaries, rather than strategies of distintermediation that will continue to connect them with consumers around the globe.