Illusion of Diffusion

An inveterate ‘early adopter’ like myself can’t help thinking that I might be arriving too late at the techno-party. While I consider myself to be moderately ‘tech-savvy’ I always have the feeling that I am missing the boat. I mean, what does it say about my level of technological prowess that my kids look at me with pity because I don’t use my mobile phone to ‘text’.

Sure, I have created this blog (thanks to WordPress) and I can tinker with HTML and CSS, but hacking and programming skills elude me. Is the world of technological innovation is passing me by?

Apparently not. According to a recent report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project I’m still ahead of the proverbial curve. According to the report a mere “8% of Americans are deep users of the participatory web and mobile applications”.

  • Another 23% are heavy, pragmatic tech adopters – they use gadgets to keep up with social networks or be productive at work
  • 10% rely on mobile devices for voice, texting, or entertainment
  • 49% of Americans only occasionally use modern gagetry and many others bristle at electronic connectivity
  • I have spent a great deal of time studying online forums and virtual brand communities. As a result I had begun to think that the level of participation on these forums and in these communities was widespread. The Pew survey numbers do not support this.

    The Pew report differentiated between what it calls “digital activities”, such as texting, playing video games, listening to music on a device other than a radio, and watching TV on devices other than a television, and the “user-generated content” that I have been discussing. In the general population “digital activities” are much more prevalent than is “content generation”.

    Of the 71% of American adults that use the Internet the following activities have been reported:

      Digital Activities
  • 41% of the population sends or receives text messages
  • 28% play video games
  • 24% listen to music on devices other than radios
  • 13% watch TV on a device other than a television
    1. Content Generation
  • 19% have shared something online that they themselves created, such as artwork, photos, stories, or videos
  • 18% Have posted comments to an online newsgroup or website
  • 12% have created or have worked on their own website
  • 9% have taken material they have found online – such as images, text, or songs – and have remixed that work
  • 8% have created or work on their own online journal or weblog
  • John Horrigan at Pew Internet has created a Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users. According to the categories he has identified, a majority of the content-generation originates with the 31% of American adult internet users that Horrigan has labelled Elite Tech Users. He further refines the typology by dividing these Elite users into 4 distinct categories:

  • Omnivores: This young (the median age is 28) and ethnically diverse group represents 8% of the general population. They are 70% male, 64% white, and 42% students.
  • Connectors: This Elite group makes up 7% of the adult population and has a median age of 38. 62% are white, 55% are women and, as a group, they have above average educations and income.
  • Lackluster Veterans: (I didn’t make these labels up) This predominantly male group (65%) make up 8% of the general population. They are well educated, financially comfortable, and have a median age of 40. 41% of this group are parents.
  • Productivity Enhancers: This group represents another 8% of the general population. Their median age is 40 and they are equally likely to be men or women, college grads or not, and 76% are employed full-time.
  • Interestingly, due to its ‘digital’ nature, text messaging on your mobile phone doesn’t necessarily make you part of the group of elite tech users.

  • Mobile Centrics: This group consists of 10% of the general population and is half of the 20% of the population Horrigan has designated as ‘middle -tech’. The median age of this group is 32, just 4 years older than the average Omnivore, and yet they are much less experienced Internet users. This group is middle-income, 52% male, and 81% are employed.
  • Mobile Centrics, while just as likely as Omnivores to text with their mobile phone (94% and 93% respectively), they are not at all likely to post comments to an online website. (55% of Omnivores exhibit this behavior as opposed to 0% of Mobile Centrics.) Mobile Centrics are also less likely (6% as opposed to 34% for Omnivores) to have a weblog.

    So it’s my kids’ use of Facebook, not their proficiency with texting, that puts them in the group of Elite Tech Users. I have a little more difficulty categorizing myself within Horrigan’s typology. Based on my content generation activities , I could be one of Horrigan’s Elite Omnivores, as could my mother. However, neither of us has seen ’28’ in a while and neither of us is particularly proficient with ‘texting’ on our mobile phones.

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