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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Emergence and Extinction: innovation, progress and change Seminar

27th January 2015, 18:00 to 19:00, Birley Room, Hatfield College, Professor Mark Casson, University of Reading

Innovation emerges in all walks of life: in business, new products replace old ones; in art, new styles come into fashion; in science, new technologies supersede outmoded ones; in the environment, new species evolve and appear. Different academic disciplines have sought to test these or related propositions about the emergence and extinction of innovation. For some scholars, the emergence of innovation is explained through the diffusion process in which new ideas/products become popular, reach their tipping point and then decline. For others, their studies draw on models of evolution used in biological studies to map out the probability of reproductive selection amongst the population in evolutionary games. 

This interdisciplinary programme will explore different theoretical and empirical approaches to understanding how a subject emerges and subsequently declines. The aim is to look in more detail at how these processes unfold in different contexts: 

  • Understanding the emergence of diffusion of innovation and how innovative ideas propagate in space in a range of areas ranging from management, banking history, research innovation, linguistic changes to energy technologies;
  • The destructive potential of emergences (i.e. does the emergence of something invariably result in the destruction of something else);
  • The role of zeitgeist, or the spirit of the time, in the adoption of new products and ideas;
  • The threshold for mass adoption, and
  • The extent to which all emergences are necessarily temporary. 

The next event in this programme will take place on: 

Tuesday 27 January at 18:00-19:00 at the Birley Room, Hatfield College

Professor Mark Casson - Buzz words: their emergence and diffusion in the academic research community 

Conventional economic theory tends to assume that systems are stable and that they converge on efficient equilibrium outcomes. This does not seem to apply to the language used in economic and business research. Many of the most popular words seem to have no agreed definition; their meaning is ambiguous and sometimes their use creates confusion rather than clarification. How can the popularity and persistence of these words be explained? What function do they fulfil? Do they have a subtle purpose, or are they just the wasteful product of perverse incentives? The paper will address these issues in terms of case studies. Researchers on strategy, eco-systems, and institutions are especially welcome. 

Mark Casson is Professor of Economics at the University of Reading and Director of the Centre for Institutional Performance. His research interests are entrepreneurship, international business and business and economic history. He recently published a short article on buzz-words in the Handbook of Entrepreneurship and Small Business


Please contact for further information about events in this series (

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