Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2020, Vol. 75 ›› Issue (4): 722-735.doi: 10.11821/dlxb202004005

• Globalization and Regional Development • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The influence of geographical distance on the dissemination of internet information in the internet society

HUANG Xinnan1,2,3,4,5, SUN Bindong1,2,3,4,5, ZHANG Tinglin1,2,3,4,5()   

  1. 1. Research Center for China Administrative Division, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
    2. Institute of Eco-Chongming, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
    3. The Future City Lab, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
    4. The Center for Modern Chinese City Studies, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
    5. School of Urban and Regional Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
  • Received:2018-05-31 Revised:2019-12-11 Online:2020-04-25 Published:2020-06-25
  • Contact: ZHANG Tinglin
  • Supported by:
    Major Program of National Social Science Foundation of China(17ZDA068)


In the era of "internet society" premised upon new telecommunications and information technologies, there is a perennial debate on whether geographical distance still plays a role in spatial phenomena, and this has been deemed as a cornerstone of geographical research. To empirically tackle this recurring conundrum, this paper proposes an analytical framework to interpret how geographical distance affects information dissemination, which has always been portrayed to be instantaneous spreading across space by information technique. To be specific, we suggest that closer geographical distance could lead to better information dissemination through two entwined paths: geographical proximity is related to geographical and cultural homogeneity on the one hand, and lowers the cost of physical transport and non-physical links, which would facilitate intercity dissemination, on the other hand. As the former has been widely recognized in previous studies, in this paper we mainly focus on testing the latter path. That is, the influence of geographical distance on the attention to information still remains, after controlling regional characteristics and socio-economic attributes of the audiences. Taking two Chinese TV shows as examples, this paper measures the degree of information attention based on the Baidu Index, as well as maps its spatio-temporal changes. To understand the impact of the changing role of geographical distance over time, we perform OLS regressions at four phases from the first broadcasting of the two programs. The result verifies that geographical distance still plays a significant role in the attention and reception of information during the entire period. The degree of audience's attention decreases as the distance from programs' birthplaces increases. The resistance of geographical distance, however, gradually decays over time. Furthermore, these results are robust at both provincial and city scales, with two different programs having similar findings. The retained effects of geographical distance on the cost of information attention and reception helps explain our results. In other words, the law of geographical distance decay and geographical embeddedness is remaining, even though internet technique enables instant information transition. We therefore argue that the prognosis of "death of distance" or "end of geography" is far from the reality - at least from our empirical analysis, albeit in the internet society.

Key words: geographical distance, internet society, dissemination of information, variety show, Baidu Index