In doing a bit of follow up on social diffusion, I came across this summary of early research which contributed to Rogers work, Diffusion of Innovation.
http://www.hightechstrategies.com/profiles.html (summary of iowa state study in 50s on adoption of new corn seed technology)
Combining the above with other materials, leads me to the following observations.
– The network effect of early adopters is common to both the corn seed study of the late 50s and the cultural adoption of ‘favourites’
– What may be different is the nature of the social/cultural institutions through which that networking takes place. The institutions and relations and the time of the 50s that are the networking environment in which farmers experiment with, learn about and apply new corn seed technology is vastly different from the one now. Formal organizations have far less impact now on individuals than the constantly shifting subscribe/publish networks of the web age.
– Google is buying DoubleClick the ad network. They get it. With the ability to monitor and analyze in real time the click/select patterns of a web population they can apply these innovation diffusion theories to great advantage. They don’t need to know what I am personally doing. They want to know what ‘ageing old guys in their 60s’ are doing. If they can further segment this group along the innovator, early adopter, early majority spectrum by interest area – WOW!
– The caveat is that there may be differences between cultural and non-cultural industries which are significant in how one applies these approaches.