The Blog

Always Late to the Party: Are We All Now Late-Adopters?

My Granddad loves Sudoku. A few years ago he was given his very own tablet with pre-installed Sudoku challenges to push him into the 21st century... two months later it was hardly used, but many Sudoku books had been scribbled in and completed. He was dedicated to pen and paper.

My Granddad loves Sudoku. A few years ago he was given his very own tablet with pre-installed Sudoku challenges to push him into the 21st century... two months later it was hardly used, but many Sudoku books had been scribbled in and completed. He was dedicated to pen and paper.

In 1982 Everett M. Rogers published Diffusion of Innovations. He outlined the role of different groups of people in the uptake of a product or brand. 'Early Adopters', Rogers proposed, made up 13.5% of the total population of users and they could be characterised by their higher education status and 'higher social status'. 'Laggards' or 'Late Adopters' are the last to adopt an innovation according to Rogers and are "the oldest among adopters, and in contact with only family and close friends". Whilst Rogers' original paper looked at the purchasing pattern of hybrid seed corn by farmers, it has since been taken on by economists and beyond to map technology adoption patterns.

My Granddad is a 'laggard', but after reading Rogers' analysis of the different kinds of people in the life cycle of a technology it made me wonder... Is it always the oldest who are the late adopters? What stops us from taking up new technology? Are we governed by technology as it advances at an exponential rate?

Earlier this year the UK government announced that they have paid Microsoft £5.5 million

to extend Windows XP, Exchange 2002 and Office 2003 updates for another year. After

this time the systems will be obsolete, so are we a country run by 'laggards'? When asked

why the upgrade has not already happened, CCS (the purchasing arm of the cabinet

office) said that migration can be a "complex and costly process", and that the main priority for public sector organisations is "to ensure a seamless transition".

Many may see this as a 'Thick of it' style 'omni-shambles' but unlike Rogers' assessment, the government have become laggards not due to their socio-economic status or education level but because of the large financial and time-cost that migration to a new system would cause. With just one year to make the switch they have to take the cost and staff management difficulties to avoid security breaches.

But they're not the only ones, The Netherlands are in the same boat. In these cases emerging technology is moving far ahead of the management and professional capacity of these governments, causing a dependence (at a high cost) on Microsoft to create updates. According to Collingridge, as technology becomes ingrained, changing it becomes "expensive, difficult and time consuming" and people become 'locked in'. Unfortunately as obsolescence looms, society is forced to update at a high financial and time cost.

Are we really all the 'laggards' now apart from the kids who queue up outside the Apple store? We live in a time where technology is not only advancing but accelerating. The rate at which different technologies are being created and adopted is increasing exponentially. In 2010 TED-famous sociologist/technology geek Steven Johnson proposed the 10/10 rule for innovation and adoption. Throughout the 20th century, Johnson explains, it took a decade to build the new technology and a decade for it to reach a wider audience. He uses the example of colour television and HDTV.

But in the 21st century all that changed. Consider, as Johnson does, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, PayPal employees and founders-to-be of Youtube. In early 2005 they explored video sharing online, and within sixteen months they had 30 million videos a day. Within two years Youtube was one of the top-ten most visited sites on the web. 10/10 had become 1/1.

With software and technology developing at breakneck speed is it only leaving my Granddad stumped? My iPhone 4S says no. In 2012 I decided to plump for the iPhone 4S, then a swanky, shiny top of the range phone. Two years later I'm far, far behind the curve. With the arrival of the iPhone 6 and Apple's OS X Yosemite my iPhone's fate was sealed and the latest updates mean I will soon be forced to update it into obsolescence.

So what does all this mean for emerging technology? Moore's 'law' proposes that processing power increases twofold every two years, but this is an arbitrary rule as processing power increase is down to the technology developers, what happens if the consumer can't keep up? Even as a technologically aware and adept young person I'm only months away from being unable to use my software despite it being less than three years old. The technology and ability of developers to advance is governing the way we use technology, from governments paying for XP updates to the planned obsolesce of relatively new technology.

But what about the rebels? Less than 10 years ago vinyl was the preserve of bad-dancing dads but now the crackle of vinyl has been getting ever louder as a whole new generation of avid collectors are cultivating a subculture (I'm a fully stocked up member). Sales of vinyl have jumped 250 percent since 2002 and in 2013 6.1 million were sold. Whilst this might only count for a tiny percentage of the 290 million albums sold in 2014, it meant a big comeback for the LP. Alas, record stores aren't feeling much of the benefit as Amazon were the top sellers worldwide. Whilst the rebellion against technology may be fighting its corner with vinyl, Amazon's massive market share speaks volumes, the low prices the internet offers has changed the way we consume.

Old technology has experienced a resurgence because of a new technology (Amazon) and the internet has also had a role in the development of vinyl-loving communities online. Here we can see that even in the throwback against new technologies it's a technological advancement i.e. the internet is at the forefront of the reemergence of the subculture and is facilitating its growth.

Pete Paphedes, a Guardian music journalist and all-round hero, hits the nail on the head, he believes vinyl "is the closest music consumption has come to the slow food movement." It's pushing back against the 'fast food' acceleration of technology. But even though it's made a comeback, vinyl lovers alike still tap on their iPhones. The seemingly never-ending advancement of computing software and hardware seems to leave almost everyone out in the cold and yet it's facilitating the growth of rebellion against new technologies.