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Southeastern Geographer Vol. XIX, No. 2, November 1979, pp. 127-140 INNOVATION ADOPTION: A CASE STUDY IN SOUTHEAST ASIA Steven K. Pontius INTRODUCTION. Studies on the structure of the diffusion and adoption processes have increased significantly over the last two decades. Most social scientists who study these processes agree that they are functions of communication. (J ) Previous research on tlie diffusion of innovation has emphasized adoption by individuals or households. (2) Adoption, however, is but one stage in the decision-making process. Prior to adoption (or rejection) information about the innovation must be available to the potential adopter at a number of steps or stages in order that the new input can be evaluated. (3) Little is known, however, about the spatial context in which this communication process takes place. This paper focuses on the networks of communication relationships used by farmers in the Central Plain of Thailand when evaluating four agricultural inputs—fertilizer, herbicide, insecticide, and fungicide -in an attempt to better understand the spatial context in which these decisions are made. Viewing innovation adoption from a decision-making perspective and focusing on the nature of the potential adopter's communication behavior at each stage in the process yields two benefits. Few students ofinterpersonal communication have established the exact interpersonal links traversed by an innovation at each stage in the decision-making process and determined precisely the location of each source contacted. This is because the procedures used to obtain relational data and the use made of them have been far from optimal. Granovetter, for example, argues that the questions have been structured to elicit "choices" rather than "ties." (4) He states: (5) Most sociometric tests ask people whom they like best or would prefer to do something with, rather than with whom they actually spend time. He adds: (6) Dr. Pontius is Assistant Professor and Chairman of the Department of Geography at Radford University in Radford, VA 24142. 128Southeastern Geographer . . . even when . . . sociometric information is collected there is almost never an attempt to directly retrace the exact paths traversed by an (idea, rumor, or) innovation. Most commonly, the time when each individual adopted the innovation is recorded, as is the number of sociometric choices he received from others in the study. In addition, sociometric questions are usually structured to elicit choices only within the social system under investigation. (J) Understanding who talks to whom at each stage in the innovation adoption process provides a strategy for identifying particular behavioral patterns that have direct influences on an individual's communication network. More important, understanding the spatial context in which decisions are made provides a sound basis for evaluating programs of planned change and development in Third-World nations such as Thailand. INDIVIDUAL ACTION SPACE. Stimulus for the approach adopted in this paper stems, in part, from work that measures people's contacts and activity spaces. Concepts related to these measures include: action space, awareness space, space using capacity, and cognitive mapping. (8) In the context of innovation adoption, each of these concepts is defined as an area in which the potential adopter has knowledge of information sources that are perceived as useful. Sources of information include the mass media (newspapers, radio, and television) and one's network of personal contacts. (9) Although a potential adopter may have access to a broad range of sources within his or her action space, only a limited number of sources and a limited portion of the action space are used during the innovation adoption process. This is especially true with respect to mass media sources in developing countries. Reltran, for example, has noted four essential aspects of a satisfactory mass communication system: mass media availability, access to mass media messages, content of mass media messages, and the code of mass media messages. He argues persuasively that rural areas in developing countries are ill-served in all respects . (JO) How these and other deficiencies have affected agricultural information in the mass media is described by Fett: (JJ) Mass media are generally urban-centered. Media control tends to be in the hands of people with little understanding of and sometimes little sympathy for farm people and their problems. Even the media interested in agriculture tends...


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