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How Tight-knit and Individualistic Communities Adopt New Technologies Differently

In this article, titled, “How Tight-knit and Individualistic Communities Adopt New Technologies Differently,” Susan Cosier explores the diffusion of different technologies across the world. The article introduces the idea of diffusion with an anecdote of a dinner table at a restaurant, where someone introduced a new technology (a messaging app called WhatsApp), and everyone at the table downloaded it. (As it turns out, the group at the table still use it to this day). It then goes on to talk about how while tight-knit circles with few outside connections may be tough for technology to penetrate, once it has, it spreads quickly. In this example, someone introduces it (the initial adopter), and immediately everyone adopts it. This would be an example of a very low threshold value, because only one person had used it beforehand, and right away everyone adopted it. The author then distinguishes how different technologies spread through different network structures, and what factors affect the spreading of the technology. “Specifically, Reich found that the type of technology being introduced is the main factor in whether an innovation does or does not spread through a close-knit community. Societies, countries, communities, and friend groups—collectively known as network structures—that are more individualistic and loosely connected are better at adopting “low-threshold” technologies, she found. These are innovations that are valuable even without a large number of adopters, such as computers or agricultural innovations. But for higher-threshold technologies, societies with more tightly knit groups have the edge. A technology like WhatsApp, for example, requires a critical mass of people in order to provide a benefit.” This important distinction can be used by companies trying to implement a new technology. If they are able to gauge what their threshold will be (roughly), they will have a better idea of how to market their product, which will increase their success. The author also notes that “Getting joint adoption can be a way to kick start the process” of the adoption of a new technology. We have observed this phenomenon in class, where the more people that adopt a technology to begin with, the quicker it will spread, and the more likely everyone is to adopt it.


Overall, this article was an interesting read. It provided several examples of different technologies, and how they spread through different social structures. It examined how different technologies are spread, and which ones spread in which cultures, countries, etc. I found the example of the fax machine most interesting. According to the article, the fax machine was invented in the United States, but was not very well received. It took the widespread adoption and use in Japan for the US market would adopt it. It seemed odd how a technology could be denied where it was invented, spread somewhere else, and then come back to the original market and be accepted then. I’m sure there are several more examples of situations like this, but it was interesting to think about nonetheless. The article did not delve into the network theory behind these observations, and I feel as though it would have benefitted the article to do so. It didn’t need to be a technical addition, but perhaps more about the research that was conducted. Granted, it was meant to be a quick read, but perhaps a follow-up article could have been written as well. The writing was easy to read, but the real thought provoking questions were not addressed, which left the article lacking overall. Still, I enjoyed the read and do hope the author writes a follow-up.




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