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Christina's LIS Rant
Sunday, February 05, 2006
  Kinda wondering about blogs catching on... and reading the famous Rogers book
Rogers, E. M. (1995). Diffusion of innovations (4th ed.). New York: Free Press.

We have an assignment for the week after next to read a couple of chapters from Diffusion of Innovations. We were warned, however, that we ought to read the whole book for our comps. So I got it from the library (and since have put the new ed. on my Amazon wish list), and started at the beginning, reading it before bed. Fascinating. Instead of putting me to sleep, it woke me up with all kinds of interesting things... and I'm only halfway through the first chapter!

We all kind of whine a bit when our fabu ideas don't catch on. I am a concept person -- I think of big things and plan them out and get discouraged when everyone doesn't rush to follow. Of course, there's a lot of work on how innovations catch on, but it hadn't occurred to me to read it. Since the original work in this field, people have used the ideas to study how IT projects catch on. Also, one of our new professors did his doctoral dissertation on IT company failures. It may be valuable for the champions of library 2.0 to take a peak at some of this...

From the Preface (p. xvii):
Information about an innovation is often sought from near-peers, especially information about their subjective evaluation of the innovation. This information exchange about a new idea occurs through a convergence process involving interpersonal networks. The diffusion of innovation is essentially a social process in which subjectively perceived information about a new idea is communicated. The meaning of an innovation is thus gradually worked out through a process of social construction.
He also talks about homophily and heterophily -- essentially, you're more likely to pick up an innovation from someone very much like you. Of course, if they're exactly like you they won't have tried the innovation yet...

Also, from p.12
A technology is a design for instrumental action that reduces the uncertainty in the cause-effect relationships involved in achieving a desired outcome... Technology is information and transfer is a communication process, and so technology transfer is the communication of information (Eveland, 1986)
Very importantly, from pp. 15-16

Characteristics of innovations... The characteristics of innovations, as perceived by individuals, help to explain their different rate of adoption.
  1. Relative advantage is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as better than the idea it supersedes.... [economics, satisfaction, prestige, convenience]
  2. Compatibility is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as being consistent with the existing values, past experiences, and needs of potential adopters...the adoption of an incompatible innovation often requires the prior adoption of a new value system...
  3. Complexity is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as difficult to understand and use...
  4. Trialability is the degree to which an innovation may be experimented with on a limited basis...
  5. Observability is the degree to which the results of an innovation are visible to others. The easier it is for individuals to see the results of an innovation, the more likely they are to adopt it. Such visibility stimulates peer discussion of a new idea, as friends and neighbors of an adopter often request innovation-evaluation information about it.
Eureka -- so think about blogs and blogging. The people who picked it up first attended a lot of conferences like CIL and saw others doing it (observability). They also were attracted by the ease of starting up a blogger blog (complexity), even if they quickly abandoned it (trialability). We haven't gotten there, necessarily, with relative advantage over, say, listservs.

The other problem is that early adopters may not be seen as similar to the audience. How many times have I heard -- "well I can't do what you do"? I'm sure Aaron "walking paper" (I always forget his name :) ) , Michael "Tame the Web" and Steven "Library Stuff" get this, too. Why was I able to take this from them when other librarians haven't? I'd like to see stats for % of Steven Cohen's audiences who have since 1) tried blogging or 2) taken up blogging. He got me started at Maryland Technology Day in 2003.

When we're doing user instruction, there's definitely some value in presenting yourself as a subject expert and professional, but you also have to be effective in information transfer. Hm.
 
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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina Kirk Pikas

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