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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).



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