Department of Business Development and Technology

Gerardo Zarazua de Rubens

Conspicuous diffusion: Theorizing how status drives innovation in electric mobility

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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.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Pages (from-to)154-169
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

    Research areas

  • Conspicuous consumption, Diffusion of innovation, Electric vehicles, Low carbon transition, Tesla

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