Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Exploring Personal Computer Adoption Dynamics

Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Exploring Personal Computer Adoption Dynamics

Article excerpt

Personal computers (PCs) have undergone several major transformations during the past decade. PCs today are equipped to function as a mass communication medium when used in a multimedia mode and with the Internet/World Wide Web environment. Other developments in PC technology such as PC-TV, Web TV, satellite-to-PC, and interactive cable television are all examples of alluring, newly converged PC/media technology entrees in the information age.

While the estimated PC adoption rate was 37% in early 1997, the adoption curve is projected to grow markedly by decade end (Sanberg, 1997). The larger issue concerning adoption of PC technology, then, is both a cultural and an economic one. As the PC's potential to provide mass communication and advertising as well as information utilities expands, the implications of its future development on the print, broadcast, and cable television industries are of great interest to society.

At this stage of PC diffusion, one essential issue involves how to expedite the adoption rate. To address this issue, it is necessary to identify and understand existing adopters, potential adopters, and nonadopters as well as the reasons for (non) adoption. This study intends to address these issues by exploring the differences among different adopter categories and the potential predictors of PC adoption rates.


Although the PC adoption phenomenon has attracted much research interest in the information and library science disciplines (e.g., Reissman, 1990), few mass communication research studies directly address this topic. Hence, when studying personal computer adoption within the mass communication context, it is necessary to draw from cross-disciplinary theoretical perspectives on home computers as an innovation for adoption.

In particular, theories of adoption of innovations are utilized to explain adoption dynamics. Relevant adopter studies are cited to depict potential adopter characteristics. Adoption behavior is further scrutinized in relation to existing media use behavior such as media use patterns and technology ownership to establish potential linkages between PC adoption and uses and adoption of other media technology.

Adoption Barriers

Rogers (1995) defined "innovativeness" as "the degree to which an individual or other unit of adoption is relatively earlier in adopting an innovation than other members of a social system" (p. 22). He classified adopter categories into: (1) innovators, (2) early adopters, (3) early majority, (4) late majority, and (5) laggards, on the basis of adopter innovativeness and adoption rate. While innovators are considered the venturesome earliest adopters and gatekeepers for the introduction of an innovation into a social system, laggards are those who resist the idea of an innovation and are the last to adopt. The other three types of adopters fall in between these two extremes (Rogers, 1995).

Alternatively, Midgley and Dowling (1978) defined the same concept as "the degree to which an individual is receptive to new ideas and makes innovation decisions independently of the communicated experience of others" (p. 236). These definitions present a set of macro concepts that lay the foundations for exploration of micro-level concepts encompassing personal attributes and other specific adoption-related behavioral patterns.

For instance, Foxall and Bhate (1991) consider the origin of an individual's innovativeness to include personality styles such as venturesomeness and communication patterns (e.g., media consumption, opinion leadership) (see Rogers, 1995). According to Hirshman (1980), the causes of innovativeness have their origins in an individual's novelty-seeking motives. Flavell's (1977) interpretation of these motives rests on the assumption that they may enhance an individual's self-preservation and problem. solving skills. Hence, an individual with stronger novelty-seeking motives may proceed to either (1) develop a novelty-seeking orientation or willingness to adopt an A innovation or (2) to actualize this novelty seeking-intention or engage in actual adoption. …

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