Diffusion of Innovations
Still part of the dominant paradigm, the diffusion of innovations
theory conceived by Rogers (1962, 1983) posits that:
Diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated
through certain channels over time among the members of a social
system. It is a special type of communication, in that the messages
are concerned with new ideas, including the implementation of social
concepts and information in society (1983).
According to this model, populations are divided according to
their ability in incorporating and implementing innovation. The
early adopters would serve as models to imitate, creating a fertile
atmosphere for change. The ones that are not so fast to adopt innovations
are laggards, which are presumed to describe most of the population
in the underdevelopment regions (Waisboard, 2001).
A revisited model of the information-decision process establishes
five stages for the adoption of innovations: knowledge, when the
individual becomes aware of the innovation and how it works; persuasion,
which is when the individual forms an opinion for or against the
innovation, implementation, and confirmation, when the individual
looks for reinforcement to either continue or discontinue the innovation
(Rogers, 1983). This model of transmission of information shares
Lerner and Schram’s concept of unilateral and top-down approach.
However, differing from the modernist theorists, diffusion of innovation
are not anchored in the “magic bullet’ communication
effects, favoring the two-step flow of communication theory. Rogers
concludes that the media has an important role in increasing awareness,
but interpersonal communications and personal sources are vital
to ultimately adopt the innovation. Therefore, the emphasis on interpersonal
communication resonates with Lazarsfeld’s “two-step
flow of communication” model, which states that ideas flow
from the media to opinion leaders and from them to less active sections
of the population (Waisbord, 2001). Reardon & Rogers (1988)
reiterated the importance of peer networks in the decision to adopt
a new idea, not withstanding media influence. The diffusion of innovations
model proposes that both media and interpersonal communications
are necessary to bring change.
Responding to critics of the dominant paradigm, Rogers recognized
that the top-down approach did not demonstrate to be effective in
bringing transformation and change. Besides recognizing the importance
of paying attention to local socio-cultural environment, he also
stressed the importance of participants’ reciprocal sharing
of information to accomplish a common goal (Rogers, 1976).
Nevertheless, diffusion of innovations has been widely incorporated
and utilized in the realm of communication development, being one
of the models that dominate this field. Particularly important for
this study is the relationship between this framework and the entertainment-education
strategy. The utilization of mass media to inform and carry pro-social
messages and campaigns is one of the premises of entertainment-education.
Singhal & Rogers (1999) earlier definition of entertainment-education
carried the basic components of the diffusion of innovations model:
“designing and implementing a media message both to entertain
and educate, in order to increase audience knowledge about an educational
issue, create favorable attitudes, and change overt behavior”
(p. xiii). Evaluation studies of entertainment-education strategies
have also pointed to the importance of interpersonal communication
to stir behavioral change (Morris, 2003).