Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type



Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Matthew A. Zook

Second Advisor

Dr. Thomas R. Leinbach


The Internet is often touted as a panacea for perceived deficiencies in economic development. Its space-transcending abilities, which can instantly connect producers with consumers, have the potential to cut out intermediaries and to redistribute economic surplus in a more equitable manner. This dissertation asks whether the promises of the Internet are being realized in the Thai silk industry.

The project explores the following questions: (a) At which nodes in the commodity chain is the Internet being used?; (b) How has the introduction of the Internet altered production chains and the flows of capital in the Thai silk industry?; (c) How are these changes altering the socio-economic conditions of actors who are involved in reconfigured production chains?; (d) What are the relationships between contemporary discourses about the economic benefits of disintermediated commodity chains and the actual effects of disintermediated commodity chains?; and (e) Are older local silk making traditions being replaced as producers interact with distant consumers through the Internet?

This project uses a textual analysis of websites selling Thai silk to examine discourses being put forth about the effects of the Internet. Surveys and interviews with producers and merchants provide data on changes that the Internet is having on the production chains of Thai silk. Results suggest that in very few cases is the Internet allowing a disintermediation of commodity chains to occur. Internet users are actually more likely to position themselves as cybermediaries: buying from, and selling to other intermediaries. Although disintermediation is rarely occurring in the commodity chains of silk, the Internet is allowing firms to sell to a geographically diverse range of customers. These findings indicate that instead of placing buyers and sellers into copresence in a virtual marketplace, the Internet is rather being used as a tool to open up virtual conduits between those already occupying privileged economic positions in the commodity chains of Thai silk.

Included in

Geography Commons