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Theories of Communication ­ MCM 511
VU
LESSON 14
DIFFUSION OF INNOVATION THEORY
In 1962 Everett Rogers combined the information flow researchfindings with studies about the flow of
information and personal influence in several fieldsincluding anthropology, sociology and rural
agriculturalextension work. He developed a diffusion theory. So although it is classified as an important
theory in the field of communication, diffusion of innovations there has knownpractical application in
manyother disciplines likedsociology, rural sociology,economics and medicalsociology.
What Is Meant By Diffusion of Innovation
DIFFUSIONis: "The process by which an innovation is communicated throughcertain channels over
time among the members of socialsystem"
INNOVATIONis: "An idea, practice, or object perceived as new by an individual or other unit of
adoption
Everett Rogers in hisclassic work analyzedthousands of diffusion studies in various disciplinesover
the years and found similarities. All the studies involved an innovationcommunication form one person
to another a society of community setting and the element of time
Diffusion of innovation theory statesthat an innovation (i.e., an idea, new technique, newtechnology)
diffuses or spreads through outsociety in a predictable pattern. A few people will adopt an innovation as
soon as they hear of it otherpeople will take longer to try something new and stillothers will takemuch
longer.The pattern is that of an S-shaped curve.
When a new media technology or otherinnovation is adopted rapidly by a great number of people, it is
said to EXPLODE intobeing.
Socialscientists have borrowed a phrasefrom physicists to describe thisadoption phenomenon, the
concept of the critical mass.
In physics, the critical mass has to do with the amount of radioactive agentsneeded to produce a chain
reaction. In mass communication, the criticalmass describes the pointwhen adoption of an innovation
takesoff, when the greatest number of people begin to adopt it,and the dramatic upward line on the S-
shapedcurve begins itsascent.
Rogers and other diffusion researchers have identified five separateinnovation-adoption categoriesinto
whichall people in a society willfall.
·
Innovators
·
Earlyadopters
·
Earlymajority
·
Latemajority
·
Laggards
1. Innovators
Innovatorsare described as venturesome and ready to try new things.
Their social relationships tend to be more cosmopolitan than those of other groups.
Suchpeople tend to form cliques and communicate with one another despite geographical distances
2. Early adopters
Earlyadopters are more localitethan cosmopolite.
Due to their integral part in the local society, this adopter category produces the mostopinion leaders of
anyother category. They are sought for information aboutinnovations, and their advices arevalued.
Those in this adopter category have the respect of others in the community because of their success and
willingness to try innovations.
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Theories of Communication ­ MCM 511
VU
Therespect of others in the community is important to the early adopter, and actions are gearedtoward
preservingthat respect
3. Early majority
This adopter category includes peoplewho do not wish to be the first to adopt newtechnologies or new
ideas.Instead, the early majority prefers to deliberate, often for someperiod of time, before itsmembers
make a decision to adopt. Thesepeople serve the importantfunction of legitimizing and innovation, or
showing the rest of the community that the innovation is useful andadoption is desirable.
4. Late majority
Members of the late majority areskeptical and cautious about the benefits of adoption. They waituntil
most of the community has alreadytried and adopted the innovation beforethey act. Sometimespeer
pressure or social pressures serve to motivate the late majority. In other cases, economic necessity
induces them to adopt the innovation.
5. Laggards
Members of this group are the last to adopt. The laggards are tied to the past, to the traditional way of
doingthings, and are veryreluctant to try anythingnew.
Many of these people interactwith others of the samemind-set. E.g. microwave,mobile phones. Once a
laggardadopts an innovation, the rest of society may have moved so farforward that the `innovation'
hasbecome outdated.
Conceptual Roots
In the 1960s Albert Banduradeveloped a comprehensive learning theorysteeped in psychological
principles.The psychological explanationsfor these events, in terms of social learning theory are:-
Learning about the innovation
Symbolicmodeling- (e.g. an innovative behavior shown on television that is subsequently imitated by
viewers.) is the most common source of influence at the beginning of the diffusion process.Early
adoptersare usually those whoread newspaper or watch television.
If an innovation is hard to understand and difficult to put to practicaluse, it will not be adopted as
quickly as an innovation that is relativelysimple to use.
Someinnovations must be spreadthorough interpersonal contact and in such situations,physical
proximity affects adoption
Adoption of the Innovation
Whether or not a person USES or ADOPTS the new behavior or innovation depends uponmany
different factors. Research has shown that the greater the benefits, the More the incentive to adopt a
particularbehavior. E.g. Internet in business.
Adoption of innovations is also affected by SELF-EFFICAY or belief in one'sown abilities. Before a
persondecides to try something newthat person usually asks the question, Can I do it?Status
incentivesare some of the mostpowerful motivational factors foradoption of something new. E.G latest
hairstyles,new fashions or use of MP3 ­ once the majority has adopted those items or styles, their
values status symbols is hone and the earlyadopters must find othernovel items or styles.
Adoptionalso depends upon a person's individual values and perceptions of self. If new behaviors or
innovationsconflict in some way withthose values or perceptions, the person is less likely to adopt.E.g.
smoking,drinking.
Developingsocial networks afterAdoption
Thethird step in successfuldiffusion of an innovation involvesinterpersonal communication among
casualacquaintances- the weaker links of the communication network. Researchhas shown that
cohesive, close groups or clusters of people(immediate family, closefriends, clubs, co-workers
religiousfriends etc) learn of innovationsthrough these weak social ties.
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Theories of Communication ­ MCM 511
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In the diffusion and adoption process,research has shown thatpublic channels of communication, or
communication by way of mass media, usuallyserve to spread the awareness of an innovation much
faster than interpersonal channels.Interpersonal communications often proveessential in influencing
people to adopt the idea or innovationthat mass media have introduced to them.
Fourkey steps that effectivelysummarize the diffusion process are:-
1. Knowledge
2. Persuasion
3. Decision
4. Confirmation
1. Knowledge
A person or members of a communitybecome aware of some newinnovation or communication
technology, e.g. software program forhome computers.
At this first step in the diffusion process, information is passed through some channel of
communication,usually mass media or telecommunications media, but sometimes by way of
interpersonal contact.
2. Persuasion
Steptwo of the diffusion processtakes place mostly within the mind of the potential adopter.The
individualweighs the advantages that the new technology would bring to him or her personally.Based
uponthese evaluations and discussionswith others, the individual begins to learn toward eitheradoption
or rejection of the innovation
3. Decision
Withthis step, the individualmakes the final decision of whether to adopt or reject.
4. Confirmation
Once a decision is made, the individualnormally seeksvalidation.
Whether the decision was to adopt or to reject, the person continues to evaluate the consequences of the
decision.
If the decision was to reject,new information or economic pressuresmight compel the person to adopt
the innovation
ImportantDiffusion Studies
IowaHybrid corn seed
·  To increase yields by 20 percent
·  Slow to adopt ­ reason beingprice no more seeds for the next season,agriculture
innovations were rare so farmers were notready
·  Diffusion of news
·  Aboutagricultural innovations such as fertilizer and pesticides
·  Newdrug (tetracycline) amongst physicians
·  Innovationsrelated to health information ­ family planning
·  Advancedknowledge about politicaland social sciences
·  rise of new media technology
SUMMARY
After a number of empirical researches he tried to show that when newtechnological innovationsare
introduced,they will pass through a series of stages beforebeing widely adopted
·  First the most people will becomeaware of them, often throughinformation from mass
media.
·  Second the innovations will be adopted by a verysmall group of innovators or early
adopters
·  theiropinion leaders learn form the early adopters and try the innovation themselves
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Theories of Communication ­ MCM 511
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·
fourth if opinion leaders find the innovation useful, theyencourage their friends ­ the
opinionfollowers
Finallyafter most people have adopted the innovation a:
·
Diffusiontheory is an excellent example of the power and the limitations of a middle-range
theory. It assigns a very limitedrole to mass media.
·
Mediaonly create awareness of newinnovations. Only the earlyadopters are directly
influenced by media content .Others adoptinnovations only after beinginfluenced by other
people.
·
He recommended that diffusionefforts be led by changeagents, people who could go out
intorural communities and directlyinfluence early adopters andopinion leaders
·
Mediaare used to draw attention to innovations and as a basis forgroup discussions led by
changeagents. Extremely useful in USAID to spread agriculturalinnovation in the third
world.
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Table of Contents:
  1. COMMUNICATION:Nature of communication, Transactional approach, Communication is symbolic:
  2. THEORY, PARADIGM AND MODEL (I):Positivistic Perspective, Critical Perspective
  3. THEORY, PARADIGM AND MODEL (II):Empirical problems, Conceptual problems
  4. FROM COMMUNICATION TO MASS COMMUNICATION MODELS:Channel
  5. NORMATIVE THEORIES:Authoritarian Theory, Libertarian Theory, Limitations
  6. HUTCHINS COMMISSION ON FREEDOM, CHICAGO SCHOOL & BASIC PRINCIPLES OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY THEORY
  7. CIVIC JOURNALISM, DEVELOPMENT MEDIA THEORY & DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPANT THEORY
  8. LIMITATIONS OF THE PRESS THEORY:Concentration and monopoly, Commercialism
  9. MCQUAIL’S FOUR KINDS OF THEORIES:Social scientific theory, Critical theory
  10. PROPAGANDA THEORIES:Origin of Propaganda, Engineering of Consent, Behaviorism
  11. PARADIGM SHIFT & TWO STEP FLOW OF INFORMATION
  12. MIDDLE RANGE THEORIES:Background, Functional Analysis Approach, Elite Pluralism
  13. KLAPPER’S PHENOMENSITIC THEORY:Klapper’s Generalizations, Criticism
  14. DIFFUSION OF INNOVATION THEORY:Innovators, Early adopters
  15. CHALLENGING THE DOMINANT PARADIGM:Catharsis Social learning Social cognitive theory
  16. SOCIAL COGNITIVE THEROY:Symbolizing Capacity, MODELLING
  17. MODELING FROM MASS MEDIA:Recent research, Summary, PRIMING EFFECTS
  18. PRIMING EFFECT:Conceptual Roots, Perceived meaning, Percieved justifiability
  19. CULTIVATION OF PERCEPTIONS OF SOCIAL REALITY:History
  20. SYSTEMS THEORIES OF COMMUNICATION PROCESSES:System
  21. EMERGENCE OF CRITICAL & CULTURAL THEORIES OF MASS COMMUNICATION
  22. REVISION:Positivistic perspective, Interpretive Perspective, Inductive approach
  23. CRITICAL THEORIES & ROLE OF MASS COMMUNICATION IN A SOCIETY -THE MEDIATION OF SOCIAL RELATIONS
  24. ROLE OF MASS MEDIA IN SOCIAL ORDER & MARXIST THEORY:Positive View
  25. KEY PRINCIPLES USED IN MARXISM:Materialism, Class Struggle, Superstructure
  26. CONSUMER SOCIETY:Role of mass media in alienation, Summary of Marxism
  27. COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE:Neo Marxism, Characteristics of Culture
  28. HEGEMONY:What exactly is the meaning of "hegemony"?
  29. CULTURE INDUSTRY:Gramscianism on Communications Matters
  30. POLITICAL ECONOMIC THEORY I:Internationalization, Vertical Integration
  31. POLITICAL ECONOMIC THEORY II:Diversification, Instrumental
  32. POLITICAL ECONOMIC THEORY III:Criticism, Power of Advertising
  33. AGENDA SETTING THEORY:A change in thinking, First empirical test
  34. FRAMING & SPIRAL OF SILENCE:Spiral of Silence, Assessing public opinion
  35. SPIRAL OF SILENCE:Fear of isolation, Assessing public opinion, Micro-level
  36. MARSHALL MCLUHAN: THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE AND MASSAGE
  37. KNOWLEDGE GAP THEORY:Criticism on Marshal McLuhan
  38. MEDIA SYSTEM DEPENDENCY THEORY:Media System Dependency Theory
  39. USES AND GRATIFICATIONS THEORY:Methods
  40. RECEPTION THEORY
  41. FRAMING AND FRAME ANALYSIS:Information Processing Theory, Summing up
  42. TRENDS IN MASS COMMUNICATION I:Communication Science, Direct channels
  43. TRENDS IN MASS COMMUNICATION II:Communication Maxims, Emotions
  44. GLOBALIZATION AND MEDIA:Mediated Communication, Post Modernism
  45. REVISION:Microscopic Theories, Mediation of Social Relations