Adoption of new innovation has received continued studies but one thing remains imminent; espousal of new ideas is not instantaneous. It is a gradual process that entails assorted actors and takes time to reach the target population alias the social system. Most of the two-step low models are arguably what laid a foundation for E.M Rogers to develop a more comprehensive multi-step description of how innovations diffuse in a given society in his works Diffusion of Innovations(Sahin, 2006). Typically this theory acknowledges the fact that mass mediated messages follow a stepwise flow from the innovators to the least adopters in this case laggards. Understanding of mass mediated messages draws massive interest as orientation to an innovation habitually uses mass communication channels. However, interpersonal channels are still essential. The lingering question is its real life applicability. This study sought to analyze the theory’s applicability in accordance to the adoption of home computers in the U.S.
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To begin with is a review on the theory. In essence, the theory recognizes the fact that the decision making process through a social system is never instantaneous but rather occurs over time (Roger, 1995). The theory adopts a multi-step approach on diffusion of innovations sequentially by recognizing various stages through which the idea flows. Defining diffusion typically entails a process through which an idea or innovation is communicated through certain channels over a period of time amid a social system. Basically, Rogers perceives a social system to be a set of interlinked units guided by specific tasks or problems to achieve certain goals. In this case, there exists a social and communication structures that would either enhance or impede the flow. He identifies four prime elements that are involved in this flow as the innovation, communication channels, time factor and finally the social system (target).
The innovation is the new idea developed by innovators where as the communication channel provides the platform or media through which an innovation flows. On the other hand, time specifies the duration through which an innovation is spread and usually positively correlates to the magnitude of the social system adopting the innovation. Important to note in this case is the existence of change agents. This is an individual or as well a group that designs the message strategy and consequently disseminate it through the communication channel to the target population. Additionally, mass media have dominated the channels by which an innovation is advertised and advocated for. However, this does not discard the significance of interpersonal channels. Adoption of the new innovation is dependent on the judgment made by the recipient, time duration, but rarely on expertise opinions. Subjective assessment of the near-pears is quite vital since their views are respected. This is grounded on the fact that they are agents of social models seen as opinion leaders thus likely to be emulated by the populations.
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Time factor is another critical aspect of the theory. In essence, an innovation-decision making process encompasses a mental route through which one group passes the idea and attitude to the next group. The magnitude of the social system is essentially dependent on the duration an innovation has taken on the market. Through this factor, five groups of individuals are identifiable namely; the innovators who develops the idea constituting close to 2.5% of the society, early adopters (13.5%) that espouse the innovation soonest. Early majority composes of 34% followed by the late majority (34%) adopting the innovations sequentially respect to time. The last group is the laggards who accept it much late.
Lastly is the question of applicability of this premise. To aptly exemplify Rogers’ postulation, an analytical look at the home computers in the US comes handy. Comparatively, most families in the United States have a home based computers today than it was decades before. For a long time, most of the advertisement campaigns have targeted the aspect of steering consumers of this early innovation towards owning a particular brand of home computers. Initially, the pioneers of home based computer ownership were those individuals who worked in the production industry (innovators). In this connection, the change agents focused on attracting cooperatives rather individuals. This is because they were the only entities that could afford the computers by then (early adopters) and had technical knowledge about the computers or probably used them at the working stations. Through extensive mass media advertisement (communication channels), a more general market was reached (early majority). Family interpersonal links spread was also manifested in the process aiding to reach the late majority group. Virtually most families have home computers but some are yet to embrace it due to an assortment of reasons; economic and social.
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To recap the study, Rogers’ premise of innovation diffusion is a real life application as exemplified by adoption of home computers in the United States. The elements identified as innovation, channel and time are vital in the process as well. The four identifiable groups of people namely innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority in addition to laggards are a true reflection of how the adoption of home computers has was stepwisely implemented. However, reality check may point out exceptions in such a case where not all innovations are mandated to follow this assertion. What evidently remains is that Rogers’ ample as well as urbane analysis of the way a message diffuses all through a social system by acknowledging the significance of both mass in addition to interpersonal channels is an imperative contribution to the study of mass communication.