Practice Diffusion

Melissa Archpru Akaka, Hope Jensen Schau, Stephen L. Vargo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Diffusion is traditionally examined at a macro level, measured by adoption (e.g., sales), or at a micro level, assessed by consumer characteristics (e.g., adopter types). We address diffusion at a meso level focusing on how a practice disseminates across extended time and cross-cultural and cross-national space. We conduct an historical analysis and ethnographic inquiry of the dispersion of an indigenous practice, surfing, and the consequences of practice diffusion on practice reproduction. Our data suggest practice diffusion is not the wholesale adoption of a practice. Rather, a practice emerges across diverse cultural and national contexts through adaptation, fueled by processes of codification and transposition. We find that the movement of practice elements (meanings, materials, and competences) and their dynamic linkages (transposition, codification, and adaptation) enable a practice to (re)emerge across broad historic epochs and complex sociocultural landscapes. This study reveals how a practice evolves through shifts in power between practice carriers and noncarriers and results in distinct forms of reproduction (demarcation, imitation, acculturation, and innovation) that can mask the cultural genealogy of a practice. The continual maintenance and evolution of a practice depend on its strength of alignment and embeddedness within systems of practices that make up the social fabric of everyday life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)939-969
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Cross-cultural
  • Diffusion
  • Emergence
  • Innovation
  • Practices
  • Social change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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