Conspicuous diffusion: theorizing how status drives innovation in electric mobility

Noel, Lance, Sovacool, Benjamin K, Zarazua de Rubens, Gerardo and Kester, Johannes (2018) Conspicuous diffusion: theorizing how status drives innovation in electric mobility. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions. ISSN 2210-4224

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This paper explores how conceptions of luxury and status affect the manner in which a relatively novel technology—an electric vehicle— diffuses across societies. To do so, it combines Veblen’s notion of conspicuous consumption and Roger’s diffusion of innovation by proposing a new theoretical variation, which we term “conspicuous diffusion.” The paper sketches natural connections between the two theories, namely how conspicuous consumption relates to technological and societal development, and how diffusion of innovation is intrinsically connected to status. In combining these approaches, we hypothesize that the success of an innovation is guided by its adherence to the canons of conspicuousness and conspicuous value, which it loses as the innovation diffuses across the population. To illustrate the explanatory power of conspicuous diffusion, we examine the status of electric vehicles in the Nordic region, based on original data from multiple methods, including expert interviews and focus groups. We find that conspicuous diffusion can explain previous failures and current successes of electric vehicle diffusion patterns. The paper concludes with recommendations for policymakers, industry, and academia.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: University of Sussex Business School > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Depositing User: Ellie Leftley
Date Deposited: 29 Nov 2018 12:17
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2019 02:00

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