Chapter 4: Technological Adoption

In Chapter Four of Bel Canto the child soldiers of “La Familia de Martin Suarez” are at their wit’s end, struggling to find entertainment in anything around the Vice President’s home. While exploring Cesar stumble upon a television which he believes is broken. Simon Thibault, one of the hostages, finds the remote and turns the television on which immediately startles the child soldier and makes him call out to his friends in fear.This scene made me wonder about the larger implications of technology in third world countries. Specifically how third world countries come to adopt new technology and what are some of the factors pushing them to adopt newer technology.

The main body of research done on this field centers around Everett Roger’s “Diffusion of Innovation Theory” which essentially boils down to how a small subsection of the population of a given society will adopt a new technology, test it, and depending on the technology’s success will provide momentum for others in that society to also adopt said technology. This idea is best expressed in a bell curve graph split into five sections labelled: Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards. [1] It is important to take note of how well this adoption curve scales. For instance, in the case of Bell Canto the country the hostages are in would be considered a global laggard when it comes to adopting televisions, specifically working ones, but within the country itself the Vice President would be considered an early adopter.

Roger also introduced another theory in 1995 describing why groups move through this cycle of adoption at different rates. This process goes through five main steps including first discovering the technology, being persuaded of its value, the actual decision to adopt it, taking the time to implement and set it up, and finally the review where the group decides on if it was worth it. [2] For the sake of visualization these steps could be thought of as a smaller cycle within each of the main diffusion bell curve sections since each section is a distinct set of people. In the context of the novel the child soldiers knew of the existence of such technology but the utility and usefulness of the device wasn’t readily apparent due to all of the sets being broken, as a result, most people never made it to any later phases. In this case the Vice President would be at the deciding phase, evaluating if it was worth it.

Of course, there are a multitude of other factors also contributing to the adoption of technology. Mobile cellphones were mentioned in a previous chapter by General Alfredo in relation to how they make war less serious. This idea demonstrates how certain types of portable devices are easier to adopt due to their trialability. With no necessary infrastructure it is easy for individuals as well as countries to adopt mobile devices and test them out with minimal up front cost. [3] In addition, Fred Davis in his 1989 research article “User Acceptance of Computer Technology: A Comparison of Two Theoretical Models” described TAM, the technology acceptance model, used to model user acceptance of information technology. There are two main deciding factors that contribute to use acceptance, the perceived usefulness of the technology and the perceived ease of use. [4,5] To General Alfredo due to his traditional mindset of war saw very limited use from sell phones and so he chose not to accept them. The same happened with the child soldiers and the television, Pracett makes a point saying how, for the soldiers, televisions were always broken boxes whose previous grandeur had long since passed and so all of the child soldiers thought the television would have terrible ease of use and be lack usefulness.

In culmination, Everett Roger and his Diffusion of Innovation Theory from 1995 has remained the standard scale to which all technological adoption has been measured. The generality and applicability of this theory has allowed it to scale from small groups to around the globe and still provide meaningful insights. Explaining why people adopt a certain technology quickly is also key; by thinking of Roger’s five steps as an extension of the previous adoption bell curve even more meaning can be gleaned from this model. Of course, no model is complete and so there are always various other factors that influence the adoption of a technology like trialability, perceived usefullness, and perceived ease of use. Overall, technology is moving at such a break neck pace that its understandable how some groups are simply unwilling or unable to follow.

– Michael Pedersen

1) http://sphweb.bumc.bu.edu/otlt/MPH-Modules/SB/SB721-Models/SB721-Models4.html

2) http://web.stanford.edu/class/symbsys205/Diffusion%20of%20Innovations.htm

3) http://www.personal.psu.edu/wxh139/Rogers.htm

4) https://librarylink.uncc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.librarylink.uncc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=6698817&site=ehost-live&scope=site

5) http://chirr.nlm.nih.gov/tam.php

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2 thoughts on “Chapter 4: Technological Adoption

  1. bsejdiu942 says:

    Hi Michael,

    I liked your focus on technology, and how technology becomes prevalent in society. I had no idea about the bell curve of technology users, which was interesting. I’m unsure where I’d place myself on the curve, possibly somewhere in the middle to late in terms of smart phones. This is because of affordability of this particular technologies. I wonder if there are any other factors that affect the use and spread of these technologies, assuming the affordability is probably the most viable reason why a technology spreads a certain way. You could also compare this spread between nations that already have an infrastructure of technology in place versus nations that are developing. Perhaps how certain technologies actually facilitate the spread of more technologies in an exponential direction. The internet for example, allows us to have access to larger amounts of information, thus having access to new ideas and technologies. Whereas developing nations will learn about this information from tradespeople or their neighbors about new tech.

    Another avenue of research you could focus on, in a much broader expanse, is where this is going? As human civilization gets more technologically advanced quicker and quicker, where it is leading to, if anything? All of this is theoretical in nature, as we can’t really know how far we will go thousands of years from now, but we can guestimate to an extent about where our technology will lead us within the century at least. Although I would imagine if we did see said technology today, we would react in the same way the terrorist group did with the television.

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  2. Colin Murphy says:

    Hey Michael,

    You’ve written an excellent contribution to our class blog!

    Your research on technological adoption certainly does confirm the correlation between time of adoption and state of country. More specifically, it explains how the majority of Peru’s people are out of touch with the latest technology trends of the time and instead adopt new gadgets after they’ve first trickled down through the better-established nations. Or in terms of your research, the terrorists and other general natives of the country would be considered “laggards,” or at least of the “late majority,” depending on class.

    In one of my earlier posts I discussed the economic contrast between third-world developing countries and hegemonic superpowers. As you mention in your post, a “multitude of… factors contributing to the adoption of technology,” perhaps a country’s economic stability is such a factor. Conducting further research on this relationship might be an avenue that could lead to other similar findings in your journey through slow research.

    Your discussion around General Alfredo’s view on cellular phone technology made me think of the Amish perspective. These people are actually not against technology itself and choose to adopt a gadget only if it can do some absolute good to the community. Oftentimes, however, they recognize downsides and simply choose not to pursue implementing a new technology. This point of view differs from the economical-based perspective, so perhaps some further research could better explain this relationship.

    Although an abundance of differences exist between third-world and established countries (i.e. economical, technological, influential), it’s possible that these differences all relate together in a specific manner; or one might find quite the opposite! It will be interesting to see of Patchett introduces other such variables in the later chapters of her novel. Thanks for your well-written post!

    – Colin

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