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Christina's LIS Rant
Friday, April 17, 2009
  Comps reading - Diffusion of Innovations
Very disappointing progress for assorted reasons, not related to the book itself.

Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations. 5th ed. New York: Simon & Schuster.

This book is very readable and enjoyable. Not to mention that the author reinforces what he says by referring backward and forward in the book a lot and italicizing new terms and providing complete definitions. The book is also peppered with case studies pulled from the literature.

Diffusion of innovations research got its start in the study of diffusion of agricultural technologies in the Midwest. Rogers' dissertation in 1954 was on the diffusion of an insecticide in Iowa. He cites his own work from that time forward to work in press at the time of writing. This type of research is very popular in communication (and journalism), but also in marketing, epidemiology, medicine, sociology, anthropology, information science, international development, and elsewhere.
Diffusion is the process in which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system. (p.5)

Communication is a process in which participants create and share information with one another in order to reach a mutual understanding (p.5)
Rogers also defines innovation, information, and the other terms he uses. He starts with the elements of diffusion (innovation, channels, time, social system) and continues by discussing the history and criticisms of the research. It's not until chapter 4 that he gets to the generation of innovations. Chapter 5 is one of the more important chapters, covering the innovation-decision process.

For individuals, the innovation decision process is
knowledge > persuasion > decision > implementation > confirmation
Within knowledge, there are a few different kinds: awareness, how-to, and principles (how it works). Different types of knowledge are needed by different adopters. For early adopters awareness is most important. Persuasion is harder for preventive types of innovations (take vitamins), and there's often a knowledge-adoption gap. The decision can end in rejection of an invention. Implementation can include re-invention (or adopters adapting the innovation to their local circumstances). A higher degree of re-invention leads to faster adoption and greater sustainability. Even after all this is done there can be discontinuance.

Chapter 6 is about the attributes of the innovation and how they impact its diffusion. Basically these perceived attributes are important
This section also gets into incentives and mandates for adoption.

Chapter 7 is about properties of the adopter and adopter categories like innovators (2.5%), early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%), laggards (16%). There are a lot of different characteristics of early adopters including ability to deal with abstraction, rationality, intelligence, and exposure to mass media.

Those few chapters in the middle are the most important. Chapter 8 discusses diffusion networks and how homophily and heterophility come into play. Also about opinion leaders, how to find them, and what they do. Critical mass. Individual thresholds for adoption. Chapter 9 is about the change agent (someone who works to influence adoption decisions in the direction desired by the change agency).

Chapter 10 discusses innovation in organizations - and I always think this chapter will be most important, but it's really not much different from others. Internal characteristics of the organization
Organizational innovation-decision proccess are slightly different:
agenda setting > matching > redefining structure > clarifying > routinizing

Chapter 11 discusses consequences of innovations. A lot of bad unintended consequences with things missionaries tried to do (giving steel axes to younger members of a society when the elders had had control of the tools - upset the apple cart). It's like we think this is all done, but I was hearing on the radio the other day about how this woman is campaigning against a lot of aid for Africa because it's making local businesses less competiive, it's enriching dictators, and it's not encouraging local development. I don't know for sure, but seems like we're still not looking at the consequences (intended and unintended, direct and indirect, desired and undesired).

I like this book a lot - but if you really want to get into this area, there are tons and tons of journal articles with more details. (I'll be re-reading a couple of these soon).

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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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