Defining “Early Adopters” of Data Sharing Platforms

I think it’d be wise to add at least a mention of what an early adopter is related to the figshare article.

Some poking around on Google Scholar shows there is both an organizational early adopter and an individual early adopter.

I did a Google Scholar search for:

individual AND “early adopter” AND technology

Some of the article titles that interest me include:

Characteristics of adopters and non-adopters of home computers

Understanding technology adoption: Theory and future directions for informal learning

Impact of personality on technology adoption: An empirical model

Characteristics of early adopters of end-user online searching in the health professions.

I’d really like the titles to be more focused on “early adopter” so I am changing up the search a bit –

allintitle: individual AND AND technology “early adopter” – did not match any articles published between 1999 and 2013.

allintitle:  technology AND “early adopter” – 2 results.

Might not be the best way to go about it.

Changed again:

technology AND “early adopter”

I like this:

Technology adoption and diffusion

Pointed me to this  book Diffusion of Innovations:

Everett Rogers (1986), considered by many the “guru” of adoption/diffusion research since publishing Diffusion of Innovations (now in its fourth edition) in 1960, reveals three important ways in which the adoption of interactive communications differs from that of previous innovations. 1) A critical mass of adopters is needed to convince the “mainstream” teachers of the technology’s efficacy. 2) Regular and frequent use is necessary to ensure success of the diffusion effort. 3) Internet technology is a tool that can be applied in different ways and for different purposes and is part of a dynamic process that may involve change, modification and reinvention by individual adopters.


In glancing at the book’s contents, there appear to be a few useful sections –

  • Classifying Adopter Categories on the Basis of Innovativeness
  • The Critical Mass in the Adoption of Interactive Innovations

The .mil article continues with some other interesting points concerning some recent additions by Rogers (recent meaning 1995 compared to 1960s).

The first point might be applied to the individual who seeks to use a service such as figshare:

Individual Innovativeness theory.Individuals who are risk takers or otherwise innovative will adopt an innovation earlier in the continuum of adoption/diffusion.

The second concerns both the user and the technology – user perceptions of attributes:


Perceived Attributes theory. There are five attributes upon which an innovation is judged: that it can be tried out (trialability), that results can be observed (observability), that it has an advantage over other innovations or the present circumstance (relative advantage), that it is not overly complex to learn or use (complexity), that it fits in or is compatible with the circumstances into which it will be adopted (compatibility).

The author suggests that the adopter can be called an “instrumentalist.” The passage describing an “instrumentalist” seems to confirm what we intuitively might expect of a technology adopter, that the “process is evolutionary.” However something else that catches my attention is the phrase “human aspirations for change and improvement.” From the qualitative responses to the survey sent to figshare users, the term “aspiration” seems to apply to both improvement for the individual (e.g., workflows or some tangible, personal need such as “storage space”) but also philosophical aspirations – such as “open science” or “open data.”
 The .mil paper has some good discussion of early adopters, with a table distinguishing “early adopters” from “early majority” and equating the entire process of technology adoption to a bell shaped curve (Although a bell shaped curve is understandably not the goal of DataONE in terms of usage or growth of data holdings). The author calls this the “adoption/diffusion continuum” and divides it into 1) innovators 2) early adopters 3) early majority 4) late majority 5) laggards.  Unsure where these are derived from.

Some characteristics of early adopters listed in Table 1 of the .mil paper, itself adapted from an earlier study by W.H. Geoghegan, show “willing to take risks” and “willing to experiment” as part of the “early adopter” portfolio.  Also, “revolutionary” change versus evolutionary; “project oriented” versus “process oriented.” I’m wondering if the September 2013 announcement of figshare for institutions represents the transition from “early adopter” to “early majority” as the move literally “institutionalizes” the platform.

I think these notes might help me get at the “traditional” or “timeless” view of adoption of technology innovations. I’m wondering if there’s a way to get at more recent studies concerning Internet technology in particular – so I’m modifying the search on Scholar.

“Social Network” AND “early adopter”

Yields about 1,810 results.

I’m not feeling good about these results, but digging through to the second page shows some interesting items:

Global diffusion of interactive networks: The impact of culture

Complex adaptive systems and the diffusion of innovations

Digging to page 6 found me this that I’m very interested in looking at:

Towards Research Collaboration-a Taxonomy of Social Research Network Sites.

I’m particularly interested in it because it’s from 2010. It’s cited by 12, and I’m tempted to look at “related articles.”

Page 9 gives me this:

Capturing implicit user influence in online social sharing

Which interests me but is probably outside the scope of what I’m doing. Still there is an important background question of “influence” among early adopters.

I abandoned looking at these results and moved over to the “related articles” tab I’d pulled up from the Denmark study. Interesting:

Understanding online collaboration technology adoption by researchers-a model and empirical study.

I didn’t see anything else there and there were only two pages of results.

I think these few links should provide a good starting point for shoring up a definition of what exactly an early adopter is.





About Tanner Jessel

I am a graduate research assistant funded by DataONE and pursuing a Masters in Information Sciences with an Interdisciplinary Graduate Minor in Computational Science. I assist scholarly research efforts supporting the Sociocultural, Usability and Assessment, and Member Nodes working groups within DataONE. I am based at the Center for Information and Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee School of Information Science in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *