Rogers' Innovation Diffusion Theory (1962, 1995)

Rogers' Innovation Diffusion Theory (1962, 1995)

Rebecca L. Miller (Realm Advising, LLC, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5201-7.ch073
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This chapter presents an overview of a key overarching theory of adoption of innovations, Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations Theory. A complex yet coherent set of concepts and models comprise the overall theory, which is summarized by the definition established by Rogers (2003): “the process by which (1) an innovation (2) is communicated through certain channels (3) over time (4) among the members of a social system” (p. 11, emphasis in the original). First, a brief background on Everett Rogers is provided, then a history of the development of the theory basis is presented. Next, the four core components of the theory, as well as the strengths and limitations of the theory are discussed. Finally, the relation between the diffusion of innovations theory and other technology adoption theories, specifically TAM and UTAUT are briefly described, with areas for possible further expansion identified.
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Everett M. Rogers

Everett M. Rogers (1931-2004) is the most recognized name associated with the diffusion of innovations. Rogers was among the first to recognize the study of diffusion across disciplines, and in particular the lack of theoretical writing concerning diffusion. He literally wrote the book on the subject, publishing five editions of the seminal text “Diffusion of Innovations.” His work on diffusion was sparked during his graduate work at the Iowa State University, from which he graduated with a PhD in sociology and statistics in 1957 (Rogers, 2004). While studying the adoption of agricultural innovations among farmers in Iowa, he perceived diffusion as a more generalized concept, applicable to any type of innovation; as he called it “a kind of universal micro-process of social change” (Rogers, 2004, p. 16). Shifting from rural sociology into the fields of public health and communication, his scholarly life’s work centered on developing the model and its application to a wide variety of fields. By comparing, evaluating, and summarizing these studies, Rogers merged the findings that each research tradition had been discovering on its own. From his initial intent of organizing common findings in diffusion research, the model’s framework emerged, as well as standardized descriptions of related components, such as adopter categories. His work provided the structure for the theory as it is known today, with the basic framework and accompanying conceptual components. From the studies that proliferated after Ryan and Gross’ (1943) study, Rogers delineated the research questions and investigations that would be allowed as legitimate. Also, by naming the various research traditions dealing with this topic, he identified possible invisible colleges. In retrospect, Rogers’ first book can be seen as an evolutionary record of the revolutionary paradigm that began the field of diffusion theory (Valente & Rogers, 1995). His books are one of the top most-cited publications on the Social Science Citations Index, affirming their place as the seminal and most influential pieces on diffusion.

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