Everett Rogers

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Everett M. Rogers (March 6, 1931 - October 21, 2004), communications scholar, pioneer of diffusion of innovations theory, writer, and teacher. He is best known for his 'diffusion of innovations' theory and introducing the term 'early adopter.'


[edit] Early life

Rogers was born on the family Pinehurst Farm in Carroll, Iowa, in 1931. His father loved electromechanical farm innovations, but was highly resistant to biological–chemical innovations, so he resisted adopting the new hybrid seed corn, even though it yielded 25% more crop and was resistant to drought. During the Iowa drought of 1936, while the hybrid seed corn stood tall on the neighbor’s farm, however, the crop on the Rogers’ farm wilted. Rogers’ father was finally convinced.

Rogers had no plans to attend university until a school teacher drove him and some classmates to Ames to visit Iowa State University. Rogers decided to pursue a degree in agriculture there. He then served in the Korean War for two years. He returned to Iowa State University to earn a Ph.D. in sociology and statistics in 1957.

[edit] Academic research

Iowa State University in those years (the 1950s) had a great intellectual tradition in agriculture and in rural sociology. Numerous agricultural innovations were generated by scientists at land grant universities and at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Rural sociologists, including Rogers’ doctoral advisor George Beal, were conducting pioneering studies on the diffusion of these innovations, like the high-yielding hybrid seed corn, chemical fertilizers, and weed sprays. Questions were being asked about why some farmers adopted these innovations while others did not, and also about why it takes such a long time for these seemingly advantageous innovations to diffuse.

These questions about innovation diffusion, including the strong resistances and how they could be overcome, formed the core of Rogers' graduate work at ISU. His doctoral dissertation was a study of the diffusion of weed spray, and involved interviewing more than 200 farmers about their adoption decisions.

He also reviewed existing studies of the diffusion of all kinds of innovations—agricultural,educational, medical, marketing, and so on. He found several similarities in these diverse studies. For instance, innovations tend to diffuse following an S-curve of adoption.

In 1962, Rogers publishes this review of literature chapter, greatly expanded, enhanced, and refined, as the now-legendary book Diffusion of Innovations. The book provided a comprehensive theory of how innovations diffused, or spread, in a social system. The book’s appeal was global. Its timing was uncanny. National governments in countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America were wrestling with how to diffuse agricultural, family planning, and other social change innovations in their newly independent countries. Here was a theory that was useful.

Rogers published 30 books, translated into 15 languages, and more than 500 articles, in a 47-year academic career. He taught at Ohio State University, National University of Colombia, Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Stanford University, Universite de Paris, University of Southern California, and the University of New Mexico. In total, he taught at six US universities and six universities in Europe, the Far East, and Latin America. He taught or conducted research in Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Korea, Thailand, Mexico, Nigeria, and Tanzania.

[edit] Diffusion of Innovations

When the first edition (1962) of Diffusion of Innovations was published, Rogers was an assistant professor of rural sociology at Ohio State University. He was only 30 years old but was becoming a world-renowned academic figure. In the mid-2000s, The Diffusion of Innovations is the second-most-cited book in the social sciences.

Rogers proposes that adopters of any new innovation or idea can be categorized as innovators (2.5%), early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%) and laggards (16%), based on the mathematically-based Bell curve. These categories, based on standard deviations from the mean of the normal curve, provide a common language for innovation researchers. Each adopter's willingness and ability to adopt an innovation depends on their awareness, interest, evaluation, trial, and adoption. People can fall into different categories for different innovations -- a farmer might be an early adopter mechanical innovations, but a late majority adopter of biological innovations or VCRs.

When graphed, the rate of adoption formed what came to typify the DOI model, an “s-shaped curve.” (S curve) The graph essentially shows a cumulative percentage of adopters over time – slow at the start, more rapid as adoption increases, then leveling off until only a small percentage of laggards have not adopted. (Rogers Diffusion Of Innovations 1983)

His research and work became widely accepted in communications and technology adoption studies, and also found its way into a variety of other social science studies. Geoffrey Moore's Crossing the Chasm drew from Rogers in explaining how and why technology companies succeed. Rogers was also able to relate his communications research to practical health problems, including hygiene, family planning, cancer prevention, and drunk driving.

[edit] Entertainment Education

In the early 1990s Rogers turned his attention to the field of Entertainment-Education. With funding from Population Communications International[1] he evaluated a radio drama designed to improve public health in Tanzania called Twende na Wakati (Let’s Go With the Times). [2] With Arvind Singhal of Ohio University he co-wrote Entertainment Education: A Communication Strategy for Social Change.

To commemorate his contributions to the field, the University of Southern California Annenberg Norman Lear Center established the Everett M. Rogers Award for Achievement in Entertainment-Education, which recognizes outstanding practice or research in the field of entertainment education. [3]

[edit] Later life

In 1995, Rogers moved to the University of New Mexico, having become fond of Albuquerque while stationed at an airbase during the Korean War. He helped UNM launch a doctoral program in communication. He was Distinguished Professor Emeritus at UNM.

Rogers suffered from kidney disease and retired from UNM in the summer of 2004. He died just a few months later, survived by his wife, Dr. Corinne Shefner-Rogers, and two sons: David Rogers and Everett King.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  • Rogers, E. M. (2008). The fourteenth paw: Growing up on an Iowa farm in the 1930s--A memoir. Singapore: AMIC. 
  • Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York: Free Press. 
  • Rogers, E. M. (1994). A history of communication study: A biographical approach. New York: Free Press. 
  • Rogers, E. M. (1986). Communication technology: The new media in society. New York: Free Press. 
  • Rogers, E. M. (1976). Communication and development: Critical perspectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 
  • Rogers, E. M. (1999). Entertainment education: A communication strategy for social change. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum (with Arvind Singhal, lead author). 

[edit] External references

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