Cultural diffusion

Authored by: Katz Elihu

Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  July  2010
Online publication date:  September  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415474450
eBook ISBN: 9780203891377
Adobe ISBN: 9781134026159

10.4324/9780203891377.ch64

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Abstract

Long before there were media of mass communication, ideas and practices found ways to traverse vast distances. One would think that broadcasting and the internet would have superseded the interpersonal networks that are implicit here, but they have not; the media, new and old, have a share in the flow of influence, but they are only part of the process, even today. Diffusion research seeks to follow innovations as they spread, within and between social structures, over time and space. Focused on the flow of influence, diffusion research unravels the mix of formal advocacy, informal persuasion, identification, imitation, contagion, resistance, withdrawal, and the like. Thus, the study of diffusion amounts to observing the microdynamics—the “retailing,” so to speak—of this more or less voluntary form of social and cultural change that is based on communication—in contrast, say, to simultaneous invention, evolutionary change, or change imposed by fiat or by force.

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