Exploring the socio-economic structures of internet-enabled development: a study of grassroots netpreneurs in China
The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries
City University of Hong Kong
Copyright © 2011 Chrisanthi Avgerou, Boyi Li, Angeliki Poulymenakou. Papers published in EJISDC are protected by copyright, which is retained by the authors. Authors control translation and reproduction rights to their works published in EJISDC. Permission of the author must be secured if a paper originally published in EJISDC is being considered for reprinting or translation. Authors are expected to ensure that any reprinting or translation contains a reference or pointer to the original paper published in EJISDC. Downloads of papers in EJISDC are permitted for personal and educational use only. Commercial use requires explicit permission from the Editor in Chief. http://www.ejisdc.org/ojs2/index.php/ejisdc/about/submissions#copyrightNotice
There is increasing interest in the potential of internet platforms for networking and collaboration - often referred to as web 2.0 - to open up unprecedented prospects for individuals to come together and engage in economic and political activities, bypassing and indeed subverting the corporate structures of the market economy and state control. The prevailing discourse on this technology-driven transformative potential focuses on networks of individuals interacting through technology tools with little, if at all, attention to the social context that gives rise and sustains their networked economic or political activities. In this paper we study the social embeddedness of the empowering potential of internet-enabled economic activity. We present and discuss a case of intense entrepreneurial activity in a Chinese community, engaging in e-commerce trading conducted on a platform of internet tools. Our analysis of this case juxtaposes the emerging views on web2.0 business activities with views drawn from a long established literature on entrepreneurship as a networked activity. We found that internet-based entrepreneurial activity at this case of grassroots development enacts online social networking mechanisms of peer-to-peer and vendor-customer interactions and heavily depends on a corporate service provider, as well as the historically developed community infrastructure for commerce. Overall, our research explores whether economic activity enabled by web 2.0 is an individualistic phenomenon, or it relies on institutional bearings and if so what is their nature.
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Vol. 49, Article 4, pp1-12