I’ll be giving a paper at the International Network for Social Network Analysts’ annual Sunbelt conference in Trento, Italy this April. Here’re the details:

This paper describes a study that used behavioural and self-reported data to describe the diffusion of an innovation through a whole 47,643-person social network in the virtual world Second Life. It sought to identify what the structural and psychological catalysts were for periods of rapid and slow uptake, and how they interacted. It described the importance of both attributes for the success of a new technology in this community.

The analysis uniquely tracked the uptake of a new technology over nine months from its launch, combining information accessed from the virtual world’s computer servers with survey data. The study focussed on personal attitudes, perceptions of behaviour, network strength, exposure to the innovation, the relative position in the network of the adopter and his/her Friends, the point at which adoption occurred in the diffusion process and whether adoption in the network at that time was fast or slow.

The results indicated that structural and psychological processes affected influence differently during periods of slow and rapid adoption, but the diffusion of voice through Second Life demonstrated uncharacteristic acceleration and deceleration patterns. There was a general trend that suggested that earlier adoption and adoption during periods of rapid uptake occurred because of psychological predictors, and adoption immediately following periods of rapid uptake and later in the diffusion event occurred because of network phenomena.

These fluctuations appeared to be associated with how the content of the innovation was transformed from a new phenomenon with unknown social risks into a legitimate behaviour.

This paper is based on the results of chapter six in my PhD thesis, which you can download here (pdf).