Van Alstyne, M & Brynjolfsson, E. (1996). Electronic Communities: Global Village or Cyberbalkans?, MIT.
The first publication of the word “cyberbalkanization,” the phenomenon the researchers proposed could result from the global information infrastructure, leading to “the division of the internet into narrowly focused, like-minded individuals who dislike or have little patience for outsiders.” (definition from WordSpy).
The researchers propose an integration model to counteract this possible outcome of information technologies.
In a nutshell:
If IT provides a lubricant that allows for the satisfaction of preferences against the friction of geography, then more IT can imply that people increasingly fulfill their preferences. A preference for contact that is more focused than contacts available locally leads to narrower interactions. Thus local heterogeneity can give way to virtual homogeneity as communities coalesce across geographic boundaries.
See also: WiseGeek.