Diffusion

A typical Waikato peat lake: Variable margins and a slightly skew-whiff maimai

A typical Waikato peat lake: Variable margins and a slightly skew-whiff maimai

Recently I decided to enter a competition which required summarising the nuts and bolts of my PhD into a 3 minute presentation with a single fixed slide. No fancy props, stunts, ums, ahhhs and needless repetitions. While it’s an extremely useful exercise for practicing simple and straightforward communication, it also brought me back to what drives the research in the first place. The video clip sums it up nicely: people, often with little technical knowledge of restoration, making a real difference to the environment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6y2Y6ePY77g The genesis of this project was willing landowners and a sharemilker brought together over a cup of tea and savouries. Spool ahead a few short and very active years. Native plants are beginning to establish along lake margins that were once carpeted in grass. As far as the theory goes, I’ve battled for a few years with Roger’s diffusion of innovation (Rogers, 1962). People are placed into categories of adopters ranging from innovators, through to early adopters, early majority, late majority, and finally, laggards. It would be easy to say that the farmers featured in the video are both innovators and early adopters. Sure it’s all dependent on the nature of the innovation and channels of communication, time and social factors. We develop categories to box or channel our understanding, but putting someone in a laggard category is akin to putting them in a rubbish bin. With these limited categories in mind, I met a ‘laggard’, a farmer with whom I was talking about possibly restoring a natural area on the family farm. He sighed. Ah. You’d better talk to my son about that. His response simply underscored the fact that his vision of retirement didn’t include wielding spade, chainsaw and herbicide for a multi-year project. Not a laggard, but just being honest. Well, my 3 minutes is up. If anything, I’ll learn how not to bore people silly who ask, so why are you doing a PhD?

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