consumption

Shopping as a Modern Quest

ALEXANDRA MACK Pitney Bowes PechaKucha Presentation As Ethnographic Practitioners in Industry, shopping behavior is a frequent topic of our research. We take on the role of the consumer's advocate, arguing for products that bring value. Or decry the rise of consumerism as the focus of modern life, as exemplified by the drive to acquisition. Recent research on shopping has led me to thinking about quests from a different perspective. While we think of the pursuit of goods in terms of commercialism, in many cases there is an important journey along the way. Perhaps, in some instances, shopping is a quest—a journey toward a goal, in which often the journey itself is as important as the goal, and at others, the true goal is not the object. In traditional anthropological studies, quests that are in pursuit of a “thing” are usually about the basics of survival, and more focus has been put onto those that are spiritual pursuits, leading to a discovery of self and a path into the community. This PechaKucha describes...

The Media Landscape under Threat: Navigating the Need for Change by Applying an Anthropological Approach

MARIA EITZINGER Danish School of Media and Journalism and University of Copenhagen While newspaper subscriptions are plummeting and advertising revenues move from content providers to search engines, media houses struggle to adapt and to build new capabilities in order to adapt to emerging consumer practices. Drawing on an on-going research with regional media houses and with news-consuming young families with kids in the countryside of Denmark, I investigate the perception of local media within the broader spectrum of news consumption. How is the term ‘news’ understood? How does materiality play into this understanding? And how is the newspaper production reproducing contested meanings of “news”?...

Mannequins on My Mind: Addis Ababa and the Globalized Economy

by PATRICIA SUNDERLAND, Practica Group, LLC You’ve probably been there—in a security line at Laguardia airport, still fuzzy with jet lag. I stood in one recently—just a few days after returning from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia—and certain quotidian details of life in the US were still jumping out in shocking relief. In front of me were two women and a baby around 18 months old; perhaps mother, daughter, grandmother. In a sudden gesture the older woman got out of line, hastily bid her goodbyes, and ran off. Why run away like that, leave her daughter and granddaughter just standing there in line rather than spend the mere minute or two more it would take see them go through? Did she have an appointment to keep? Was she eager to avoid an extra charge at airport parking? I was surprised because this casual scene in the US is an unlikely one in Ethiopia. There, relations with people matter more than almost anything else, and time is not a precious commodity; time extends, “time is your friend” I heard there. As I mused...

Surfing a Wave, Passing it Forward: Marketing & Management at SDU / A Profile

EPIC Profiles Series By ERIC ARNOULD, Southern Danish University Culturally inspired and often ethnographically informed research has constituted a consistent thread of output from faculty in business school marketing departments for over thirty years (Arnould and Thompson 2005, 2007; Sherry 1991, 2014; Thompson, Arnould and Giesler 2013). This long wave of research has produced an impressive froth of ideas concerned with consumption (identity, community, ideology, ritual, etc) and many other marketplace phenomena such as branding, servicescapes, and market formation processes. This long wave accounts for a disproportionate share of top cited papers in the major marketing and consumer research journals, and has been spearheaded by a handful of terminally qualified anthropologists, sociologists and fellow travelers (Holt and Cameron 2012; McCracken 1988; Sherry 1995, 1998, 2014; Sherry and Fischer 2009; Costa and Bamossy 1995). While not lacking a critical edge, this work sometimes has included private or public sector consulting...

The “Consumption Junction” of ICT in Emerging Markets: An Ethnography of Middlemen

ELISA OREGLIA and KATHI KITNER In rural China and India, a fragmented commercial distribution system and the lack of online shopping can significantly limit the range of consumer choice. In this paper, we look at the role that mobile phone shopkeepers—the middlemen—play in influencing what users can and will buy, but also in training them in using and understanding technology....

Understanding Mediated Practices: Combining Ethnographic Methods with Blog Data to Develop Insights

JONATHAN BEAN and ZEYNEP ARSEL While theories of practice have been influential in the social sciences, these frameworks have seen limited application in ethnographic and applied inquiry, perhaps because few methods for carrying out practice theoretical research have been elaborated. We address this opportunity and provide an account of a multi-method inquiry on domestic practice. First, we explain methods for integrating data from blogs with ethnographic methods and how this data can be used to develop theory. Second, we share our experience as interdisciplinary researchers using ethnographic and quantitative data to connect work at the boundaries of social practice theory and theories of consumption. Finally, we share our insights on why industry should aim to better understand existing and emergent consumer practices....

Changing Models of Ownership and Value Exchange

RICHARD RADKA and ABBY MARGOLIS From cars to music, houses to handbags, growing numbers of people no longer aspire to own. Belongings that used to be the standard for measuring personal success, status and security are increasingly being borrowed, traded, or simply left on the shelf. In the last 5 years, we’ve seen massive growth in new business models in which people are willing to tradeoff the right to own a product, in the fullest sense of that term (indefinite access, right to transfer, etc.), for new kinds of social capital. Indeed the integration of social capital with commodity work has been noted as an important new mutation in the private sector. New businesses are spawning to help people make use of products that otherwise sit underutilized including the spare bedroom, the snow blower, the ladder or extra bike. These new businesses span vertical industries and appeal to audiences at a range of socioeconomic levels....

How Consumers Create Value in a Recession Economy

TIMOTHY DE WAAL MALEFYT This essay examines a conscious shift in the cultural flows of consumption practices. It explores the ways consumers are generating and sharing shopping competence as a new form of value. I argue that a shift in consumer consciousness and resulting open social discourse around shopping practices are creating a new consumption narrative in the recession. This narrative celebrates the resourceful and collective acts of people who transform modes of restriction (cutting back) into a positive social value of thrift. As people are practicing more thoughtful purchasing styles they are also more communicative with others in sharing their shopping strategies and ways of savings. Social changes are thus arising out of these adjustments in shopping behaviors. Such emergent shopping behaviors amplify a new sociability that demonstrates more appropriate ways to spend and save on commodities. This change shows that consumers are not just accepting new attitudes and behaviors towards shopping because they have to, but are...

Lead Type, Dead Type: New Patterns of Local News Production and Consumption

ELIZABETH CHURCHILL and JEFF UBOIS Newspapers are in trouble. Steep declines in circulation and advertising revenue have forced outright closures, reductions in force, cessation of print in favor of web only editions and frantic searches for additional sources of revenue and audience. In this paper, we report results from an interview study focused on everyday news consumption practices. Our study indicates there are many design opportunities for local news creation and distribution at interface/interaction, infrastructure and strategy levels....