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2021 Abstracts

Toward a Metric for Assessing Ideological Devotion within Technical Communities

Presenter: Michael Harding, College of Engineering & Technology, Computer Science
Authors: Michael B. Harding, Charles D. Knutson
Faculty Advisor: Charles Knutson, College of Engineering & Technology, Computer Science
Institution: Utah Valley University

From the earliest days of the computing industry, passionate communities of technical zealots have waged philosophical battles with competing practitioners in now-infamous techno-religious wars. Objects of technical zealotry have included programming languages, operating systems, code editors, hardware platforms, web browsers, and keyboard design, to name just a few. While truly zealous devotees are relatively few in number, their influence can be significant, particularly as it pertains to technology adoption in industry and academia. While it is commonly believed that passion and zealotry play a role in technology adoption, no metric has been proposed or developed that would allow us to measure it. As a consequence, efforts to understand and predict technology adoption from a sociological perspective have been limited. Such a metric would facilitate: 1) objective discussions regarding the relative passion of technical communities; 2) a better understanding of technology adoption from the perspective of social dynamics. We present a preliminary investigation into the creation of an objective metric suitable for measuring passion within a technical community. We begin by applying results from sociological research into the formation of cults and sects within religious communities. We then establish our own definitions of these terms in the specific context of technical communities. We then compare and contrast classic sociological definitions of religious zeal with our own definitions of technical passion. Finally, we explore the utility of our metric in predicting technology adoption.