Follow the yellow brick road: Using diffusion of innovations theory to enrich virtual organizations in cyberspace
The Southern Communication Journal; Hattiesburg; Winter 1997; Tyrone L Adams

Volume: 62
Issue: 2
Start Page: 133-148
ISSN: 1041794X
Subject Terms: World Wide Web
Communication
Virtual corporations
Abstract:
The systemic application of diffusion of innovations theory is shown to produce more democratically developed organizations in cyberspace. The postulatory is contrasted against the actual; considering the changes that must occur if the Southern States Communication Association's World Wide Web Network is to mature.

Full Text:
Copyright Southern States Communication Association Winter 1997

The work of an intellectual is not to mould the political will of others; it is, through the analyses that he does in his own field, to re-examine evidence and assumptions, to shake up habitual ways of working and thinking, to dissipate conventional familiarities, to reevaluate rules and institutions and ... to participate in the formation of a political will (where he has his role as citizen to play). -Michel Foucault (1989, pp. 462-3)

In Lyman Frank Baum's (1900) novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, we possess a timeless story with rich contemporary parallels. In this classic, the chief protagonist, Dorothy, is swept by a cyclone into the other world of Oz with her faithful sidekick, Toto. Upon arrival, Dorothy and Toto meet the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion. Each of these characters, to refresh our childhood memories, is searching for something that will make them whole. The Scarecrow wants a brain; the Tin Man needs a heart; and the Cowardly Lion is looking for courage. All Dorothy and Toto desire, we should recall, is to get back home to Kansas. As the plot unfolds, Dorothy and her friends discover that to realize their desires, they must travel through some very unfriendly territory to meet the all-knowing "Wonderful" Wizard of Oz. The Little People prophetically beckon, "Follow the yellow brick road!"

The storyline behind The Wonderful Wizard of Oz nicely parallels what many of today's first-time "travelers" experience when embarking upon the "Information Superhighway." On the Internet, we become Dorothy, in search of the place we call home; we become the Scarecrow, goofily looking for a brain; we become the Tin Man, seeking out now-suppressed or outgrown emotions; and yes, we are the Cowardly Lion, looking for our misplaced courage. The Internet, best defined as a global network of mainframe and personal computers connected via modems and telephone wires, fibre optics, and satellite transmissions, has literally become the Information Age's "yellow brick road." As with the characters in Oz, the "traveler" who follows the Internet faithfully may find a home, a brain, a heart, or even courage. Yet, like Dorothy and her friends near the end of this fable-duped, puzzled, and somewhat upset-the traveler will probably also find disappointment.

Remember that the Wizard was unreal; he was merely an image being animated by a puppeteer. Also, recall that the gifts given to the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion were illusory, though each felt as if they had received some magnificent gift or cure. What the puppeteer actually gave each was artificial confidence. Is it not the true moral then of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that each of us already possesses the innerspirit and character needed to become that which we desire, and that all we need is assurance-real or otherwise-to spark this transformation? Can the moral of this literary treasure help us understand Cyberspace, and our role, as researchers and educators, in its development? To find out, close your eyes, click your mouse three times, and repeat the phrase, "there's no place like my homepage. ... "

I. REVIEW OF COMPUTER-MEDIATED COMMUNICATION LITERATURE IN DISCIPLINARY WORKS: DIFFUSION OF INNOVATIONS THEORY AND THE ROLE OF THE CHANGE AGENT

Advances in communication technologies within the past two decades are radically reshaping that which the public and other academic disciplines commonly identify as communication study. Even within the discipline, the invisible college of computermediated communication (CMC) is gaining a presence in our textbooks and academic journals.1 It seems that scholars are dissecting CMC from divergent theoretical perspectives in order to understand the medium's appropriate role in communication study and to capitalize on its academic potential. Right now, the diversity of research efforts in CMC crudely mirrors the communication discipline's already teeming, and healthy, heterogeneity.2 A generic review of these works, within the confines of communicationspecific journals and texts, is critically important in that it (1) animates the interdisciplinary argument, and (2) acquaints the non-CMC-fluent scholar with potentially refreshing tangents in their disciplinary niche.

The meta-perspective synthesizing early efforts in CMC research has been in need of renovation for quite some time (Johnston, 1989; Rice, 1989). Several recent textbooks have attempted to remedy this very problem by updating the material (Ess,1996; Harrison & Stephen, 1996; Jones, 1995). Acknowledging the recency and analytical depth of these works, however, CMC is experiencing astronomical growth in varied disciplinary directions. The accelerated rate at which CMC is reinventing itself, therefore, makes it a burdensome topic to assess. In fact, if the meta-perspective makes us aware of anything, it should be that CMC-based research has already dispersed throughout the key arenas in speech and communication-related study.

As expected, generic works explaining the fundamentals of CMC networks and online databases represent the most predominant tangent (Collins, 1994; Compton, White & DeWine, 1991; Danowski, 1986; Day, 1993; Feenberg, 1989; Green, 1994; Maule, 1993; Rowland, 1994; Santoro, 1994; and Trevino & Webster, 1992). These articles detail the tedious "how-to's" concerning local-area network (LAN) and Internet connectivity, electronic-mail (E-mail), Telnet, gopher, news groups, and accessing research databases via the World Wide Web (WWW). They are superior starter resources for those interested in learning the foundations of CMC. Regarding pedagogy, our leading academicians in instructional communication are evaluating the additional educational dimensions presented by CMC (Archee, 1993; Bailey & Cotler, 1994; Hiltz, 1986; Kuehn, 1994; McComb, 1994; Phillips & Santoro, 1989; and Shedletsky, 1993). These studies, spotlighting Bailey & Cotler, Kuehn, and McComb's most recent contributions, discuss the academic bounty available to the student when instructors include CMC-based activities in the human communication classroom. In turn, academicians critiquing the legal and rhetorical bearings of CMC have employed constitutional (Smith, 1994), ethical (Hausman, 1994), and power theory (Herring, 1993; Spears & Lea,1994) approaches to the focus. Excepting Smith's landmark article, unveiling an evolving draft of the Cyberspatial Bill of Rights, these works allude to, but do not concentrate upon, the use of CMC as a community-building vehicle.

On the quantitative end of our research spectrum, social scientists are, as a general rule, more concerned with the individualistic uses and gratifications of CMC technology (Rice,1987; Walther,1992; Walther & Burgoon,1992; Walther,1993; Walther,1994; Walther, Anderson & Park, 1994) and the psychological dynamics exhibited during small-group use of CMC systems (Adkins & Brashers, 1995; Farmer & Hyatt,1994; Hollingshead, McGrath & O'Connor,1993; Valacich, Dennis & Nunamaker,1992; Valacich, George, Nunamaker & Vogel, 1994). While Reardon and Rogers (1988) caution researchers that interpersonal and mass media theories are not mutually exclusive, these works are indeed distinctive in their own right, because they represent the genesis of micro-level CMC analysis.

Diffusion of Innovations Theory

Organizational CMC branches into two schools of thought: linguistic psychology (Garramone, Harris & Pizante,1986; Sherblom,1990; Steinfeld,1986) and diffusion of innovations theory. Of all the offshoots having been exercised in CMC, diffusion of innovations-based research is unquestionably the most prevalent. An overview of this scholarship is meaningful because it illustrates the diversity of work being conducted in this realm. Initially, Thompson (1975) inaugurated the expedition through his description of an "electronic hallway" that was being devised by the early creators of ARPANET. Adding to this work, Korzenny (1978) concluded that the interconnectedness of CMC technology had created a conducive state for "electronic propinquity" among its regular group participants.

Then, in the later 1980's, while personal computers and modems were becoming more popularly accepted, diffusion-based CMC research gained noteworthy adherents. For example, Ebadi and Utterback (1984) deduced that the rules and norms of human communication frequently affect the way that people use, and as a direct result, perceive CMC innovation. Further, Oliver, Marwell, and Teixeira (1985) found that the successful diffusion of CMC innovation is directly related to reaching a state of, what they term, "participatory critical mass." Augmenting Ebadi and Utterback's aforementioned work, Grantham and Vaske (1985) then detail the individualistic situational factors commonly associated with the adoption of new technology. Taking diffusion-based CMC research to the structural level, Rice (1987) documents how organizations have been transforming into "virtual organizations" because of technological developments. On another front, Markus (1987) used diffusion-based CMC theory to explain why, and how, interactive video systems were incorporated into the communication practices of some organizations. Relying heavily upon Rogers' notion of a "change agent," LeonardBarton (1988) then explains the importance of the "implementor" in the initial stages of diffusion.

As the Internet gained a participatory critical mass during the early 1990's-which is consensually attributed to the rich graphical and audial interactive environment presented by the WWW-diffusion-based CMC study became more engrossed with organizationally-rooted analyses. Markus's (1990) continued exploration into interactive video system adoption by organizations-with a particular emphasis on the interdependence that communities build when using these electronic networks-is credited for this shift. Likewise, Alexander, Penly, and Jernigan (1991) used diffusion theory to describe the different pretenses driving media preference, and selection, among organizational administrators. Then, Steinfeld (1992) amplified the community-level theme by categorizing the frameworks and directions that future research efforts should take. Bringing us closer to the present, Barnes & Greller (1994) describe how organizational communication is being revolutionized from the inside-out due to CMC networking innovations.

Still, while the above literature review narrates that which has been accomplished in diffusion-based CMC study, Rogers, the progenitor of diffusion theory, argues that the diffusionist should steer clear of prior research. To fully appreciate this advice, we must first understand the nucleus of his doctrine: "Diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system. It is a special type of communication, in that the messages are concerned with new ideas" (1995, p. 5). Rogers contends that new insights, even if they are empirically worthy and valid, are extremely difficult to get adopted into established communication networks (p. 1). This is because communication, as diffusionists perceive it, is a dynamic and time-consuming, uncertainty-reduction process where the mutual "creation and sharing" of meaning occurs (p. 6-7); thus, fundamentally breaking from Shannon and Weaver's traditional two-way linear model. In other words, Rogers believes that communicative participants are so absorbed in creating and sharing germane meaning with one another, that their exchanges instinctively block external innovation because it is perceived as intrusive. Those that become involved in the diffusion of innovations process are participants in what Rogers calls a "macroscopic social change" that seeks to have the client-base redefine its collective behavioral practices by substituting the innovational order.

There are four components in diffusion of innovations theory: (1) the innovation itself; (2) communication channels; (3) time; and, (4) the social system. The innovation is "an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption" (p. 11); communication channels are the means "by which messages get from one person to another" (p. 18); time is considered the amount of time used by participants to make decisions concerning the adoption or rejection of new measures (p. 20); and, a social system represents the network in which change may occur (p. 23). Of course, the rate at which and quality of the innovation's adoption are intertwined components. Importantly, however, Rogers provides no certain formulae by which diffusion of innovation analyses should be accomplished. He explains:

Throughout the present book we seek to represent a healthily critical stance. We do not need `more of the same' diffusion research. The challenge for diffusion scholars of the future is to move beyond the proven methods and models of the past, to recognize their shortcomings and limitations, and to broaden their conceptions of the diffusion of innovations. We offer this fourth edition as one step toward this important goal. (xvii)

Admiring Rogers's respect for context, this author sees a host of rhetorical applications for this social science theory. For this particular study, the change agent's role in the diffusion process is important:

The Role of the Change Agent

Rogers defines a change agent as "an individual who influences clients' innovationdecisions in a direction deemed desirable by a change agency" (p. 355). By the term clients, Rogers explicitly means those constituents of an organization that are involved in the innovation-adoption process. The change agent's purpose is to court the client populace to accept good innovations, and reject those that may have detrimental consequences, based upon a sober, empirical read of the innovation in question. Rogers also leaves the definition of a change agent open to context, reasoning that among different organizations, the bearer of new paradigms will assume different roles (p. 336). Yet, it is important to note that the change agency-understood best as the support structure behind the change agent-is normally constructed of "individuals who possess a high degree of expertise about the innovations being diffused" (p. 336). When this is not the case, the change agent is in the bewildering position of persuading the governing agency and the client-base that innovation diffusion should occur.

Rogers claims that the change agent must go through a progression of "roles" designed to produce the acceptance of the innovation and future compliance of the populace who will, inevitably, diffuse the innovation. Each of these seven roles follow:

1. To develop a need for change. A change agent often initially helps clients become aware of the need to alter their behavior. In order to initiate the change process, the change agent points out the new alternatives to existing problems, dramatizes the importance of these problems, and may convince clients that they are capable of confronting these problems. The change agent assesses client's needs at this stage, and may also help to create needs.

2. To establish an information-exchange relationship. Once a need for change is created, a change agent must develop rapport with his or her clients. The change agent can enhance relationships by being perceived as credible, competent, and trustworthy, and by empathizing with the clients' needs and problems. Clients must accept the change agent before they will accept the innovations that he or she promotes. The innovations are judged on the basis of how the change agent is perceived.

3. To diagnose problems. The change agent is responsible for analyzing clients' problems to determine why existing alternatives do not meet their needs. In arriving at such diagnostic conclusions, the change agent must view the situation emphatically from the clients' perspective.

4. To create an intent in the client to change. After a change agent explores various avenues of action that clients might take to achieve their goals, the change agent seeks to motivate their interests in the innovation.

5. To translate an intent to action. A change agent seeks to influence clients' behavior in accordance with recommendations based on the clients' needs. Interpersonal network influences from near-peers are most important at the persuasion and decision stages in the innovation-decision process. The change agent can operate only indirectly here, by working with opinion leaders to activate nearpeer networks.

6. To stabilize and prevent discontinuance. Change agents may effectively stabilize new behavior through reinforcing messages to clients who have adopted, thus "freezing" the new behavior. This assistance is given when a client is at the implementation or confirmation stage of the innovation-decision process.

7. To achieve a terminal relationship. The end goal for a change agent is to develop self-renewing behavior on part of the clients. The change agent should seek to put him or herself out of business by developing the clients' ability to be their own change agents. In other words, the change agent seeks to shift the clients from a position of reliance on the change agent to one of self-reliance. (p. 337).

The most critical of the aforementioned seven suggestions, Rogers believes, is the last: achieving a terminal relationship (p. 357). This is because most change agents, due to economic and ego constraints, are not genuinely interested in removing their clients' dependence upon their services. He writes, "Unfortunately, change agents are more concerned with such short-range goals as escalating the rate of adoption of innovations. Instead, in many cases, self-reliance should be the goal of change agencies, leading to termination of client dependence on the change agent" (p. 357). Which is why Rogers concludes that when centralized systems develop to a point of supersaturation, coextensive, decentralized structures are required for organizational growth (p. 365-6). Managed decentralization is, in spirit, the goal of the change agent.

II. USING THE CHANGE AGENT ARCHETYPE TO ANALYZE VIRTUAL ORGANIZATIONS IN CYBERSPACE: A CASE-STUDY OF THE SOUTHERN STATES COMMUNICATION ASSOCIATION'S WORLD-WIDE-WEB NETWORK

The objective of this article is to demonstrate how a "community voice" can symphonically evolve among CMC participants in virtual organizations3, when the change agent archetype is used. This work communicates this objective to those who actively homestead or plan to become involved in the development of organizations in Cyberspace by focusing on the structural evolution of the SSCA-Web. Before any parallels can be drawn between the change agent perspective and the development of the SSCAWeb, however, an understanding of what the Association seeks to accomplish with the Network is crucial. Conveying such a vision-in the name of a community voice-is a profound undertaking when the Network authors admittedly represent a mere handful of SSCA's membership. Nonetheless, the Ad Hoc SSCA-Web Internet Committee aims to make the time when we are not at conventions "virtually" more productive. To do so, the organization must paradigmatically redefine itself.

On Becoming the Virtual Organization

Every breakthrough establishes its antithesis-the need for, and reasons to achieve, yet another innovation. This dynamic of the creative process, that thought is needled by its sheer inexistence, is the paradox alongside which humanity has functioned since the Industrial Revolution. We automate the taxing and laborious, then we work to assemble the new paragon of automation. This obsession for innovation offers some answers as to why our definitions and contexts for the word "organization" are in a constant state of evolution (Eisenberg & Goodall, 1993, pp. 5-12). The demands of competition and innovation that are placed upon the individual, congruently manifest themselves on the organizational aggregate. An organization is basically understood as a group of people organized for some end or work. By adding to this sketchy definition, the virtual organization is easily rendered: any group of persons who organize-through computer-mediated means of communication-for some end or work. Outlining the three key differences between the virtual organization and the conventional organization confirms how virtual organization members are, by their very interaction, redefined by innovation.

First, members of a VO are less physically tangible than are those in a conventional organization (Barnes & Greller 1994, p. 131-3). In the VO, there are no three-dimensional hands to shake, nor luncheons to be done. People are typically resembled by textual representations of their thoughts through electronic-mail (E-mail), chat lines, or the WWW. Of course, this has its benefits and drawbacks. One benefit is that in an environment where race, gender, and socioeconomic class cannot be easily identified, an excellent breeding ground for the informal mingling of pure human consciousness is, presumably, created (p. 133). A drawback to this anarchy of anonymity is that this secrecy can actually encourage the increased use of computer-mediated communication, thus diminishing face-to-face interaction. Still, CMC presents several methods of synthetically duplicating interpersonal and public communication through the use of digitized imaging, though it is palpably not "real." For example, the popular CompuServe(R) Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) graphic, among many other formats, is a key visual addition to the traditional textual environment found on the Internet; these graphics are usually posted across the WWW, and make browsing much cooler (in McLuhan's sense). More equipped VO's are even using interactive audio and video feeds for global, real-time communication (p. 138-9). For better or worse, the people in the VO are not immediately tangible. Yet, ever-improving digital approximations of their likenesses are.

Second, when considering the effectiveness of information dissemination, the VO is, due to its systemic reliance upon CMC delivery, more efficient and versatile than paperbased communication in the conventional organization. For instance, VO members may check their E-mail messages, engage in a chat-discussion, or view WNW documents from remote sites, with little regard to time or place (p. 132-3) using cellular or other portable connectivity devices. By embracing the VO perspective as an operational paradigm, the organizational inflexibilities placed upon personal time, space, and geography can be structurally altered to embrace the varied needs of its members. In short, the VO mocks our traditional conceptions of time and space with an alternate, virtual reality. Thus, "organization" in the organization huddles around thought rather than proximity.

Third, through W homepages, chat lines, and listservs, the VO provides its members with the democratic arena necessary to operationalize collective logics. Colleagues and employees alike have the opportunity to discuss information, without the interpersonal dynamics of presence. For those taking part in cyberdiscussions, these formats provide non-hierarchical access to communication; anyone can, through their keyboard, express themselves "for the record" with little to no interruption in their personal flow of logic. In the issues of community and diversity,4 with their logical extremes being totalitarianism and anarchy, exists the balance upon which all media-be they telecommunicative or not-teeter. Each VO must, independently, determine the answer to the following question: To what degree is the "association" for "some purpose or end" a worthwhile and profitable venture for the individual? How far will individual, and sometimes diametrically opposed logics to the collective, be appreciated, tolerated, contained? The psychology of community development temporarily aside, one thing is certain: The immediacy and non-hierarchical communicative structures provided by the Internet present every VO with this philosophical, and necessarily political, balancing act.5

The Southern States Communication Association Virtual Organization

The initial vision for the SSCA-Web homepage is located at http://ssca.net. We have constructed an aesthetically-pleasing, graphic-rich document that maintains navigability among Association-specific information, and other relevant sites throughout the WWW.6 The SSCA-Web has four menu-embedded divisions: (1) Information About SSCA; (2) links to SSCA Division and Interest Group Homepages; (3) Communication Resources; and (4) Search mechanisms. When linking to the About SSCA segment of our homepage, the visitor can find: an automated online Application for Membership; the SSCA Constitution; SSCA Convention Information; Electronic GO-NN-EC-C-TIO-NS (a hypertext markup language [HTML] version of our newsletter); active E-mail links, including an all-in-one E-mail button, to our Executive Council; submission, mailing, and purchasing information about The Southern Communication Journal, instructions for becoming a member of the association listserv: SSCA-L, and the current SSCA Presidential Address. These "virtual" resources have, in their extremely short tenure, already proven their Associational value.

What has not yet realized its full potential, however, is the vast unclaimed cyberspatial territorypromised by the links to Division and Interest Group Homepages. With links running to every SSCA Division and Interest Group, from the main homepage, the visitor commonly frequents-as it currently exists-nothing more than intellectual dead-ends. The information found on these pages is often out-of-date, of little to no use by the Division-specific visitor, and in most cases, simply nonexistent. There are several probable reasons as to why this is so that will be considered more fully in the forthcoming analysis.

Communication Resources, the SSC-Web's third segment, provides links to: (1) a roster of Communication Associations and Organizations; (2) Colleges and Departments of Communication-provided gratis by the American Communication Association (ACA)7; (3) a library of Internet Resources; (4) an interactive Internet Tutorial; (5) a Job Board with links to all of the major academic and professional position announcement listings online; (6) a Virtual Library, where the user can retrieve full-text copies of classical works, online academic journals, magazine and newspaper articles, and Usenet postings; and (7) a quick-link chart that connects the user with the other prominent academic and professional virtual organizations. Of additional value to the formal mission of the Association, these links are equally Spartan when compared to the division homepages, and beg for improvement.

Finally, the fourth segment of our homepage, Search, is an interactive collection of comprehensive Internet Search Engines. One can, with a little patience and diligence, find almost any information that one desires by using these powerful research tools. A dynamically updatable page, the Search utility is one of the better externally-geared features available to the public on our Network.

The Change Agent Critique

The change agent critique necessitates that the critic be involved in the innovation being examined. The voice of this analysis will shift from third to first person because it is impossible for change analysts to discuss changes that they have neither personally experienced nor shared with fellow change agents.

1. Develop a need for change.

The first duty of the change agent is to foster a need for innovation among the client base by illustrating new solutions to their preexisting problems. Ironically, organizations like SSCA-represented by a patchwork of culturally and regionally influenced individuals, all with differing professional schedules and agendas-have always been confronted with the problem of communicating effectively. Be it communication focused on better informing the public about their community, or, simply informing one another about important developments in their concentration. Maintaining "virtual" contact across enormous geographic expanses-is the axiomatic obstacle. Luckily, however, the managed, customary use of CMC, can remove this barrier.

CMC alone is not the silicon messiah, however. For those who use CMC frequently, their personal electronic networks and back-channels have been alive for quite some time. The innovative solution comes in exploding our electronic efforts across the discipline so that, in value, community outweighs individuality, and in effect, our sub-disciplines develop a sophisticated online gathering. The innovation proposed here is a call to action on the part of our community: Sub-disciplinary experts, claim your cyberterritory on the SSCA-Web and develop your appropriate constituency. For some, this is a ridiculous proposition because it presents little personal reward, de-individualizes effort, and creates an Association-dependent responsibility. Those who subscribe to this thinking are clearly not the most desirable cyberassociates for such a voluntary, selfless endeavor. On the other hand, those who understand that our common academic whole is much more valuable than its parts will more than likely prove to be fellow change agents, willing to homestead, diffuse, and expand the VO.

2. To establish an information-exchange relationship.

Once this need for change has been clearly evidenced, the change agent must then establish an interpersonal network of like-minded colleagues that are credible, competent, trustworthy, and who will, in turn, influence their own interpersonal networks. Once the vision has been communicated to, and speculatively appreciated by, fellow change agents, each change agent must advocate to the constituency the innovation. In SSCA's case, the initial vision has been communicated to those who have been attracted to, and skilled for, such a project. And, in turn, these change agents have acted upon the innovation-at-hand by developing their "space" on the SSCA-Web. Yet, not enough change agents have been found, by either the initial change agent (Webmaster) or fellow innovators. This shortage of human energy is, as a result, stagnating the development of the Network. Recognizably, among all of the change agent's roles, this is perhaps the most consequential part of one's diffusional duties.

3. To diagnose problems.

The third capacity of the change agent is to diagnose his or her client-base's problems by deducing why present options do not meet their needs. In short, the change agent must reason how and why the innovation is better than the prevailing methods of business. Rogers emphasizes that this process must be done entirely by assuming the client's viewpoint. Obviously, each change agent must independently comprehend and evaluate his or her client-base's needs on a case-by-case basis.

The first step in this process is, of course, defining who that constituency represents. Accordingly, I define mine, and thus the SSCA-Web's: all of the Internet's public, students, and scholars interested in the formal study of communication. As a communication educator, it is my philosophical obligation to reach as many people interested in our discipline as possible. Consequentially, using the Internet to make such a declaration intrinsically blurs the modern, usually tripartite, compartmentalist distinctions placed upon what it is that constitutes a scholar: professor, researcher, and provider of service. The Internet paves its way across these imposed territories, providing an unrivaled electronic canvas for uniting the artificial trinity; it is the Great Liberator of our most high-minded reverie; it is the physical Yellow Brick Road leading us all to our own personal Oz. Still, how does an ever-exploding, decentralized, SSCA-Web solve this constituency's immediate problems?

First, diffusing Network authorship, while under the SSCA banner, ensconces the value of diversity. If only one person authors all of the Association's homepages, specifically considering the sub-disciplines here, then monolithic logic prevails. Whereas, entrusting the from-many-into-one essence of e pluribus unum, if an array of authors mutually harmonize their efforts, plurality is more likely to be achieved. Second, although more sub-disciplinarily developed Internet sites already prevail in the American Communication Association and the Communication Institute for Online Scholarship (CIOS), by using the SSCA-Web as a nexus for sharing an individual's intense understanding of a particular academic niche only adds depth to these supreme efforts. Further, such an innovation would also institutionalize a formal blueprint for the future growth, adoption, and self-governance of the SSCA-Web, not canonized in the aforementioned centralized networks. And lastly, the managed decentralization offered by the SSCA-Web of the future would, by its very existence, be an operationalized statement of the Association's faith in Webb's (1996) concept of "proactive collegiality."9 The benefits of which, for this change agent, clearly outweigh the costs.

4. To create an intent in the client (base) to change.

The fourth duty of the change agent is to heighten his or her client-base's regard for the proposed innovation. Unequivocally, while this paper provides diffusion-based recommendations for anyone participating in the development of Cyberspace, it is also an attempt directly to satisfy this criterion. In accordance with this fact, there are three ways that this change agent has attempted to inform his constituency about the innovation: (1) through Cyberspace itself, (2) through the Association's official tri-annual newsletter, and (3) through this theory-based publication. In Cyberspace, ACA-L, CRTNET, RHET-NET, and all of CIOS's sub-disciplinary listserv's were presented with "announcements" of our Association's de facto homesteading act. These postings generated much attention on the Network, and also recruited two of the SSCA-Web's most passionate change agents. Also, the Associational newsletter provided an influential initial press release, within the sponsoring community, describing what the Network housed, and further, how it was to be developed. Lastly, the publication of this article itself, while possessing overarching theoretical properties, is the operationalized quintessence of the change agent analysis.

5. To translate an intent to action.

The change agent's fifth assignment is to-through his or her fellow change agent's interpersonal networks-foment a macroscopic intent to adopt the innovation among the target populace. The only way for one change agent to effectuate such an enormous innovation shift across such a diverse conflux, is to rely upon his or her colleagues to function as a sounding board. Based upon the fact that a clear informational need concerning the formal study of communication exists among the Internet's growing participants, the SSCA-Web's authoring community shoulders the definitive burdens of recruiting new change agents into, and demonstrating the advantages of adhering to, this diffusional model. In effect, they bring new voices, perspectives, and technological adeptness into the VO. Translating intent into action is, in reality, less the primary change agent's mission, than it is the role of the expanding body technologic to produce specific behavioral solutions for their client-base's information needs.

6. To stabilize and prevent discontinuance.

All change agents must share and contribute to the "community trust" by maintaining a given network's proclivity toward continued innovation. To attain this, all change agents must use reinforcing messages to reward all contributions to their tangent of the network. For the SSCA-Web, assuming here that each branch of the Network will eventually develop its own clientele, it is the responsibility of each division or interest group's change agent-facilitator to foster a positive, enriching community. Thus, promoting a climate in which free speech and intellectual analysis are upheld as strict community values. Making their cyberterritory, in effect, a personally and professionally rewarding place to frequent. On the macroscopic level, the Association, too, must publicly recognize these efforts by recognizing the outstanding work of its cyberadvocates. Acknowledgment is integral to the continuation of voluntary human effort.

7. To achieve a terminal relationship.

As mentioned earlier, achieving the terminal relationship is the most important part of the change agent's tasks. While this may, at first, seem contradictory when considering the tremendous amount of time and energy that any change agent must invest into their diffusion, the logic is quite ingenuous: Innovations can only diffuse in organizations when the new adherents to these innovations are allowed the autonomy to define their own micro-level development. The interspersion of the innovation is, by theory, a top-down manifestation-the ultimate, but essential, contradiction of administered freedom. The interpretive cultivation of that innovation must, therefore, be the enfranchised privilege of the participating body.

Absolute termination of the change agent/client-base relationship in a VO, where the very gravitizing force is centralist in nature to begin with, however, may not be ultimately attainable. For example, can the SSCA-Web, under this exploding model of communication, support ideas, notions, or calls to action that cut patently against the grains of accepted norms or the conventions of law? As a communication scholar, and devout believer in the most liberal interpretation of the First Amendment, my knee-jerk reaction is, in spirit: "yes." However, upon further scrutiny, allowing another the space to exercise "their" potentially irresponsible (using a community voice standard) free speech on the formal Network befuddles the issue. On listservs, where free speech is expressed in the name of the person doing the expressing, there's no concern. As a result, any future SSCA-sponsored listservs are freed of this matter. Yet, homepages are, from both a public relations and a legal perspective, truly representative "of" the organization. Therefore, all expressions on these mediums must, conformably, be "of" the Association. With some regret, the role of the change agent in the formal VO necessarily transforms from innovator to facilitator, to maintainer, to censor. The Associational mechanism proposed to manage potentially debilitating individual expressions in the name of the Association is, at this time, still at issue among the member body. However, what is clear is that with the responsibility of building in the Association's name first, freedom of speech is a privilege more than a right. Yet, that does not bar any author the freedom of creating explicitly marked links on that Associational space, for example, to Playboy or Playgirl online. Each community must define the desirability of providing such offerings among itself. Clearly, the negentropic relationship of the change agent is philosophically geared to (1 ) allow for the systemic diffusion of the innovation, and (2) micromanage free speech issues in the Association's name. Still, the change agent must seek to terminate his or her client-base's dependence upon their presence. This casestudy, while examining the SSCA-Web, offers some externally generalizable considerations for those cyberspatial developers interested in employing the change agent archetype to enrich their VO. Reminding the reader, once again, that Rogers wants new diffusionists to consider their own interpretations and applications of his theory for themselves, it is nevertheless healthy to consider another diffusionist's interpretation of this knowledge. In accordance, the mechanics involved with the Change Agent Diffusional Model for Decentralized Virtual Organization Development follow.

III. THE CHANGE AGENT DIFFUSIONAL MODEL FOR DECENTRALIZED VIRTUAL ORGANIZATION DEVELOPMENT

"It is possible to believe that all the past is but the beginning of a beginning, and that all that is and has been, is but the twilight of the dawn. It is possible to believe that all the human mind has ever accomplished is but the dream before the awakening." (p. 94) -H. G. Wells (1902)

Whereas logical positivism is predominantly concerned with rendering meaning to immediately tangible phenomena or artifacts of the past and present, futuristic scholarship is more concerned with achieving the possibilities of what could be, rather than what is. Futurists-the likes of Fromm, Gates, Wilde, Bellamy, and the Tofflers-do not ignore the perceptible benefits of that which is encountered by the senses, however; they merely bend the laws and limits of the conventional. Futuristic scholarship is, for this very reason, perhaps some of academe's most intriguing work; for, it challenges the very linearity of time in order to achieve its influence on the present.

Given that this article has been based in the empirical present, conjoining Wells and Foucault's sentiments (found at the beginning of this article) provides a necessary theoretical connection between our critical duties of the past, present, and future. Peering into tomorrow, Wells believes that we must contemplate the future on the universally larger continuum of time in order to fully appreciate the relative (in)significance of not only our present human existence, but also, our accomplishments. Considering the historical, Foucault (1989) believes that we must rethink the very foundations of history in order to fully understand how we have arrived at the present. And, in this historical understanding, the scholar possesses the unique duty of righting the wrongs wrought by the force of tradition upon our political and institutional entities. In turn, using these analyses as the basis for a collective, arguably decentralized, reformation of these entities. Embracing both our history and future as wholly mutable, Wells and Foucault oblige us to challenge the very momentum of the moment with new logics, and therefore, reap the innovative fruit that fall from these new trees of knowledge:

The Change Agent Diffusional Model for Decentralized Virtual Organization Development:

Taking the seven roles of the change agent to the cyberspatial realm, this model demonstrates how decentralized VO's can be better realized through diffusion theory on a processual level. The most important feature, when considering the early formation of a decentralized VO, is the communication that surrounds the actual innovation between the conventional organization's leadership and the webmaster. A clear, unmitigated appreciation of the innovation that the webmaster is to bring to the organization establishes the bedrock upon which all else is constructed. Lacking this fundamentally important relationship, and the resulting financial, material, and structural support of the conventional organization's leadership, the webmaster will be floating aimlessly in the ether.

[Chart]
Caption: Figure 1.

The first duty of the webmaster is to (1) federate the need for a decentralized VO among the conventional organization's leadership and the future users of the innovation. This can be best demonstrated by comparing the advantages and disadvantages of the decentralized VO and the centralized VO. The central issues in this demonstration will likely revolve around the dynamics of diversity, community, freedom, responsibility, and authority. Second, the webmaster must then (2) officially franchise segments of the network to early adopters of the innovation-through interpersonal contact-who are likely to expand their particular niche in the decentralized VO. Yet, early adopters, by their mere adoption of the innovation, have not achieved decentralized equity with the change agent. The change agent must preside over the growth and development of the early adopter to ensure that they will mature, only in terms of contribution, alongside the Network. Roles three (3) through six (6) on the model, have been established for just this very purpose. Here, the webmaster must (3) analyze why early adopters, who may have expressed an interest in decentralizing the VO upon enlisting, have not acted in behavioral accordance with their sentiments. Rogers notes that the change agent must do this entirely from the early adopter's perspective, in order to fully comprehend the problem. The webmaster should talk, as face-to-face as possible, with the early adopter, to identify the issues that person is facing; respectful of the responsibility-flexibility relationship that exists in managing such voluntary efforts. Then, the webmaster should (4) make direct, overt, and systematic efforts to stimulate network growth among early adopters. Here, the webmaster functions as both visionary and cheerleader, pointing toward new directions and simultaneously encouraging efforts toward these goals. Grooming the early adopter for independence, the webmaster prompts the (5) cyberassociate to form, recruit, and develop his or her own client-base, using the decentralized virtual organization model. Importantly, however, this new client-base must be shaped by some order. If the offerings that a new early adopter brings into an organization are more suited to the larger purpose, or hierarchy of information, on the virtual organization, then that individual should be "trained" in decentralization by the initial webmaster. Yet, if the offerings of the new adopter fall within the subordinated informational auspices of the recruiting adopter, then the decentralization process may replicate itself independent of the webmaster. Finally, the webmaster must (6) invent, locate, and secure innovative means of rewarding all of the contributions to any virtual organization. Once roles three (3) through six (6) have been sustained and the early adopter has reached a state of interconnected independence with the collective, the webmaster need only maintain collegial contact with the new, niche-specific change agent/webmaster. Roles three (3) through six (6) are the driving force behind virtual organization decentralization.

Even when fellow change agents have been produced it is important to note that this process is not yet complete. The webmaster must go through the process again, endlessly recruiting, developing, and priming the philosophical pump toward a state of interdependence. Having now gone through the decentralization process themselves, the early adopters are now change agents in their own right, possessing the same responsibilities and privileges held by the change agent. This mechanism should produce massive virtual organization growth in varied, yet common, intellectual directions because it is fair, responsible, and empowering. Representing a clear break from classist models of organization, the Change Agent Diffusional Model for Decentralized Virtual Organization Development flows in harmony with the evanescent power of the Internet, creating a classless "community of voices" among intellectual counterparts.

In retrospect, it is perhaps the encompassing moral of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that each of us truly possesses the wherewithal to transform ourselves into that which we ultimately desire: Dorothy and Toto went back home to Kansas; the Scarecrow discovered that he, after all, did have a brain; the Tin Man found his heart; and, the Cowardly Lion realized that he was really the Lion King. But, again, remember that the Wizard was merely the artificial facilitator of these paradigmatic metamorphoses-individually and collectively. By expediting the personal faith already endowed in each character through symbolic gifts, the Wizard had simply decentralized his so-called magic among the lot. The Wizard's power, in all actuality, came from the individual character's abeyant belief in themselves. Not much is different for today's modern wizards: the webmasters. Using HTML to pull the digital strings on our puppet-like homepages, we use slight-of-programming to perform our own technological version of hocus-pocus for visitors; all in the effort, I hope, of achieving community.

What is, on the other hand, unique about the cyberspatial application of the Oz analogy is that instead of having only one yellow brick road drawing its visitors to a central, magnificent palace, we literally have millions of yellow brick conduits, connectively diffused throughout the electronic realm. Turning social order and the very concept of hierarchies on their ear, the Internet and WWW structurally present pedagogy with the most democratic, if not anarchic, intellectual canvas since the advent of the printing press. No longer are the compartmentalized logics of geography, symbolism, and the ownership of ideas able to muzzle the liberated flow of knowledge between, and among, our academic institutions. As a result, the possibilities presented by CMC are both exciting and discomforting. They are exciting because they offer us self-determination from the methods of the past; and they are discomforting for the same reason. Inevitably, and probably sooner than we think according to Gates (1995, pp. 100-6), even that which we perceive as the current Information Superhighway will be toppled by a more powerful, more flexible, more efficient communicative technology. Innovational evolution, if not revolution, should simply be part of our mission calculus. Anticipating these forthcoming changes, thereby turning them into opportunities instead of liabilities, liberties rather than shackles, is the paradigm upon which humanity's social growth and personal emancipation will flourish. The Change Agent Diffusional Model for Decentralized Virtual Organization Development is, conclusively, one contribution to this ever-evolving dynamic.

[Footnote]
NOTES
1This article uses December's (1996) widely-accepted definition of CMC, "the process by which people create, exchange, and perceive information using networked telecommunications systems that facilitate encoding, transmitting, and decoding messages" (See: http://www.december.com/john/study/cmc/ what.html-visited on November 15, 1996).
2For an excellent overarching framework that demonstrates how CMC is currently diffusing throughout the communication discipline, see John December's Computer-mediated Communication Resources homepage at http://www.december.com It is currently the best collection of information on CMC that is publicly available on the Internet.
3Not all virtual organizations need be computer-mediated. Virtual organizations need be computer-mediated. Virtual organizations, using a more liberal definition, can constitute any group of people who communicatively aggregate in the synthetic, or non face-toface mode. Some of these virtual organizations, for instance, could be television audiences, radio audiences, or newspaper audiences. However, this text focuses specifically upon the computer-mediated realm. 4David Zarefsky's Carroll C. Arnold Lecture, The Roots of American Community, quotes Burke's sentiments that "human beings are `rotten with perfection"' to demonstrate that our propensity toward collective logic has the potential of repressing minority sentiment (1995, p. 3). Zarefsky also believes that the reverse of this phenomenon is true-the overemphasis of individualistic logic can spoil the wants of the whole. Zarefsky safely argues, "Both community and diversity are desirable values. But, each taken to its logical conclusion, becomes a negative" (p. 6). Balancing the two is the job of the democratician.

[Footnote]
5It could be argued that this "balancing act" between community and individuality already exists in the traditional organization. I would agree with this statement. However, these proportions-of-balance, for better or worse, have already been somewhat established. This is why the phenomena that is the Internet has created such a stir; its proportions-of-balance have not, yet, been defined. Further, the Internet accelerates human communication to such an extent that our motives, our reasons for making the very decisions that we do, become almost immediately transparent. In short, the virtual organization is a different animal altogether because of its accelerated communicative properties.
6Yet, maintaining a homepage in Cyberspace is, by its very nature, an entropic activity. One must exhaust an unrealistic, and arguably even unfair, amount of energy to be technically current with the popular trends on the Internet. What it takes to remain abreast in the macro-diffusing realm of the Internet is a scattered, technological knowledge. The unfairness in creating community-knitted homepages, when considering the author's perspective, is that these efforts are not rewarded by the pre-existing "publish or perish" hierarchy that placesin the face of this Gargantuan medium shift-perhaps an overemphasis upon peer-approval in the paper realm. Appreciating the politics of precedence, it is more valuable for the discipline to capture the medium-ofthe-future, be it through the peer-approval mechanism or not, than it is to be the conqueror of history. 7It would be most thoughtless of this author not to mention the pioneering efforts of the American Communication Association (AC,A) concerning their virtual organization presence. Since late 1993, ACA's virtual organization has helped fill the vacuum that once existed between communication practitioners and academicians. In fact, much of what the SSCA-Web is attempting to do, in this communitarian design, has already

[Footnote]
been accomplished by ACA. Webmaster Stephen A. Smith is to be commended for the enormous amount of time and energy that he has dedicated to this Network. (See: http://nww.uark.edu/depts/comminfo/NN"w/ ACA.html-visited on November 15, 1996)
8Webb's 1996 SSCA Presidential Address, Proactive collegiality: Staking the demon where he lives, is a call to solving the discipline's problems through "dramatic (if not catalytic) conceptualizations that are grounded in actual behavior and thereby suggest innovative solutions to long-standing, important, and universal problems." Webb states, "We must develop an atmosphere of mutual respect and collegiality within our programs on my campus, on your campus, on your campus, on every campus. I advocate a return to the notion that the faculty comprise a community of scholars who together develop, organize, and implement curriculum and research via selfgovernance." The power of the Internet-as well as that power produced by her vision of proactive collegiality-resides in its ability to maneuver around attempts to harness or destroy communication, the very fabric of community; after all, the flexible protocols of the Internet were designed to withstand the electric pulse produced by a thermonuclear blast.
9This chart was created with the assistance of Ryan M. Harris of the University of Arkansas, Monticello.

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