The world of organizations, DiMaggio and Walter Powell have argued, is heavily influenced by "institutional isomorphism": organizations adopt business practices not because they are efficient (per se), but because they furnish legitimacy in the eyes of outside stakeholders - lenders, government regulators, shareholders, etc. DiMaggio asserts that the need to maintain the confidence of poorly-informed outside parties means that organizations are less creative and innovative in their practices. DiMaggio also claims this pattern can be seen in nonprofit groups and government agencies that imitate the language and styles of the corporate world in order to appear more efficient.
In his cultural studies, DiMaggio's historical research documented the self-conscious creation of "high culture" in the late 19th-century America. DiMaggio argues that, unsettled by the weak class distinctions in growing industrial cities, local elites created a "sophisticated" culture (via the arts, universities, social clubs, and the like) that would separate commoners from those of high standing. DiMaggio says that "high culture" models developed by founders of museums and orchestras were then adopted by patrons of opera, dance, and theatre.
DiMaggio's recent research considers the cultural advent of the Internet. He compares the emergence of the Internet with the rise of television in the 1950s. Television was introduced to American consumers in 1948, and within ten years 90% of households had TV. In contrast, Internet diffusion (introduced on a large scale in 1994) seems to have stalled at approximately 60% of American households. DiMaggio believes that this difference is the result of the so-called digital divide - inequalities in Internet usage by race, income, and education level. DiMaggio maintains that these inequalities were not found in the adoption of TV in the 1950s, and suggests that differences in Internet usage among social groups will continue. This remains an open question, and some recent data suggest Internet usage is growing, with more than 70% of American adults reporting that they use the Internet.