03/15/07  (susheyer)  [0 Comments]

What kind of an adopter are you, or are you?

Everett Rogers did numerous research studies on how technology finds its way into people's habits. He developed a normal distribution curve and provided names for the different segments of the curve according to the stage of adoption: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, laggards. Meanwhile in its fifth edition, he wrote very legibly about the Diffusion of Innovations.

Something I learned recently was that we are too eager and quick about applying Everett Rogers' theory to every technology invention we see. Peter de Jager talks about the Danger of the Early Adopter Myth. Peter writes, that the curve as introduced by Rogers, cannot be drawn for every innovation. He says [quote] "The adoption terms are accurate only in hindsight; they tell you nothing about how a population might respond to a change/innovation." Therefore, we can't anticipate that every technology innovation will behave according to the curve Rogers' introduced. We are also mistaken, if we classify people into the categories: people will behave differently depending on the technology that is to be adopted. These statements might seem obvious, but looking at some articles, I get the impression that there are more loose interpretations of the theory (e.g., see the wiki at Uni Erlangen where they did a survey amongst students about who considers themselves to be an "early adopter"; in German). This might stem from the fact that Rogers defined typical characteristics for people that were early adopters of a technology, and one might feel inclined to quickly say "that's me" because it is only a small step to generalize from characteristics of one situation to the general behavior of a person.

The Instructional Systems Technology department at the University of Indiana designed a simulation game to "practice" the diffusion of innovations. They provide a login, which allows to play the game; you just don't see your log of decisions until you pay the fee. Entertaining, and I am learning!