Structure of national image in the age of networks: An empirical analysis of online social relations and information use

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Pamela J. Shoemaker


Public diplomacy, Social media, Online, Social networking, Networked society, Country reputation, Public relations

Subject Categories

Mass Communication


The purpose of this dissertation was to identify the structure of the global Internet and to establish a theoretical model accounting for how people form perceptions of other countries in the age of information technology and online social networking. A network analysis of international Internet bandwidth data in 2002 and 2009 identified and measured key structural properties of the Internet. Network analysis statistics showing centrality of each country within the network were compared to the level of trust by each country's citizens. These longitudinal analyses set the stage for a cross-sectional examination of how individuals' online social networking and online information use with regard to other countries are associated with their rating of the reputation of those countries. I conducted a survey of South Korean adult Internet users in spring 2010 concerning their perceptions of the United States and their Internet use with regard to the United States including online network size, time spent on interacting with people, and accessing information online. In addition, Q methodology was used to identify South Koreans' perspectives on relationships with the United States and effects of those perspectives on their perceptions of the United States.

Network analysis of Internet bandwidth showed that countries central in the 2002 network generally remained so in 2009. Those countries were the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Singapore, France, and China. These and other central countries were more interconnected with their neighbors in 2009 than in 2002. In addition, Middle Eastern countries have become more central in the global Internet network of 2009.

The survey shows that negative information South Koreans get about the United States through their online social networks can have significant influence on their perceptions of the United States. Moreover, South Koreans with different perspectives on relationships with the United States, as identified in the Q sort, showed different ratings of the United States. In comparison, information they get through U.S.-based websites did not significantly influence their views of the United States. These results reinforce the importance of relationship-based networked public diplomacy. It is important that countries lay out digital media-based strategies that help build relationships with their foreign constituents rather than simply delivering information to them.


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