Early adopters' roles in innovation dissemination


As elaborated in Rogers' theory (Rogers 1962) on the diffusion of innovation, a focus on early adopters' culture needs to be made. As stated previously, Early adopters are defined as people who adopt a technology at an early stage of Roger's cycle. They are amateurs, and technology lovers (Rogers 1962; Shklovski, Burke, Kiesler & R Kraut 2010). Computers' and Internet's early adopters have indeed developed a specific culture that Steven Levy called "hacker culture" (Levy 1984). Hackers are enthusiastic computer programmers who share their work with others, and originally the terms do not refer to computer criminals as it may be used nowadays in the media. The hacker culture is built upon special technical and technological skills like coding and cantered on ethical values such as on the values of play, passion, sharing creativity and world empowerment (Himanen 2001). They share a common belief that individuals can create great things by joining forces in imaginative ways. Hackers and early adopters of a technology have a very specific socio-demographic profile. They are more likely to be young men, with a high level of education (Flichy 2010), but little research has yet looked at the specific socio-cultural profile of these hackers and skilled people volunteering during a crisis. They appear to be early adopters of these technologies and to be using them during a disaster they feel concerned for (Meier 2015). A study about "voluntweeters" after the 2010 Haiti earthquake showed that Twitter users who actively tweeted about the disaster and helped out using this tools kept on volunteering and tweeting about other disasters afterwards (Starbird & Palen 2011). The skills used and developed during one crisis would then tend to be re-used during other and more distant crises. This effect should be further researched. In the aftermath of the Amatrice Earthquake in August 2015, a group of Italian hacktivists joined forces to set up a website (http://terremotocentroitalia.info) gathering important information such as missing people, and what to do after an earthquake. They also added a crisis map. Crisis mapping and drone usage have become more and more important after a disaster, however they are still mainly used by early-adopters and technology lovers (Meier 2015). UAVs have been used for disaster management since the Nepal Earthquake and their use has constantly increased since then. Drone uses during a disaster include mapping, delivering lightweight essential items to remote locations, supporting damage assessments, increasing situational awareness and monitoring changes (FSD 2016). Private drones are representing a quarter of all drones flying around the world (others are, for example, military drones) and represent the first category of users. They are being used in more than half of the world's countries. The majority of individuals deploy their drone for arts and entertainment purposes (Choi-Fitzpatrick et al. 2016). However drone owners do not hesitate to use them when necessary for disaster response purpose. In the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 they were used to identify and check shelter sites, but also to determine sites for latrines (Kaiser 2014). However, a legislative regulatory framework is lacking in many countries (FSD 2016), which may constraint their use. More research is needed on how early adopters use their technologies during a disaster but taking part in the disaster response seems to be in accordance with their ethical and cultural framework. This fourth section demonstrated that when a disaster strikes, the effects of the previous digital divide tend to be reinforced. People need to be reassured and do so by using technology. This leads to differences in technology use. Thus, these technological tools need to be designed and used by disaster managers who are aware of cultural factors that may influence the acceptance and uptake of these tools by affected citizens.

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