Social Media Seminar Series: Ted Welser
Speaker: Ted Welser
Title: The Influence of Similarity: Identity Commitment, Roles and Social Influence in the Adoption of Innovation in Wikipedia
Scholars have long recognised that social influence can drive the diffusion of innovations (Coleman, Katz, & Menzel 1967; Burt, 1987; Strang & Soule, 1998; Valente, 1996; Yuan et al, 2009). However, recent research (Aral, Muchnik and Sundararajan 2009) has suggested that underlying similarities between actors, or homophily, may better explain the adoption of innovations. Testing these alternative mechanisms requires data from large scale systems where potential influence and social interaction are recorded with high fidelity. The edit logs from Wikipedia provide such records of interaction where career stage, role specialization, and the identity commitment represent important dimensions of similarity. We find that both influence and similarity influence adoption decisions but that similarity in role and identity explain much more of the variation. These results suggest that the social dimensions of communities (as behaviorally meaningful sources of similarity) warrant additional attention in the study of diffusion processes. The talk will conclude by considering practical implications and directions for future research.
Howard T. Welser received his Ph.D. in 2006 from the University of Washington. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Ohio University. Dr. Welser's research investigates how microlevel processes generate collective outcomes, with application to status achievement in avocations, development of institutions and social roles, diffusion of innovations, emergence of cooperation, and network structure in computer mediated interaction. He is especially interested in the social implications of technological change and in studying social dynamics using data collected from social media and other digital sources. His work has been published in Rationality and Society; Journal of Social Structure; Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication; Information, Communication & Society and a variety of conference proceedings and edited volumes.