Conference Agenda

RN05_10b: Consumption, media and the digital
Friday, 23/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Terhi-Anna Wilska, University of Jyväskylä
Location: BS.G.35
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Ground Floor Oxford Road


Digitalization And Sociology – A Literature Review.

Arne Dulsrud1, Bendik Bygstad2

1Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway; 2University of Oslo, Norway

The emergence of digital ecosystems such as Google, Apple and online platforms has challenged both traditional businesses and established theories of consumption.. At the same time, established role structures related to consumption, work, production and political governance are challenged. Discourses about this take place in different academic arenas, but they are too a large extent disconnected from each other.

The purpose of this paper is therefore to present a broad review of the research on digital ecosystems and platforms. Through a systematic review of the literature, we identify four research streams:

- A critical political / economic,

- One with the main emphasis on economics, multisided markets, marketing and network theory

- A technology, with the emphasis on digital architectures.

- A person-oriented, focusing on consumption, privacy and the user perspective

We analyze each stream for the central insights and limitations, and identify the most important sources of inspiration. Then we assess the relevance of classical and modern sociological theory to understanding digital ecosystems. At the same time, we observe that sociological theory is strongly present in micro-level relational approaches to digitalization with an emphasis on the vulnerable consumer, worker, user or child. On the other hand, very few focus on institutional and macro-level effects of digitalization, such as political economy, new forms of organization in business and private life and the division between the private, public and economic life. We therefore discuss some elements of a research agenda for sociology – and sociology of consumption in particular - in the field of digital ecosystems.

Domesticating Home-IoT – A research Framework for Studying Connected Homes

Dag Slettemeås, Ardis Storm-Mathisen

OsloMet, Norway

Digital technology is interweaved into the very fabric of society in the era of Internet of things (IoT). Homes become data-rich environments that are connected to larger digital infrastructures. Security systems, household appliances, smart home hubs and wearables make homes into “mini-IoT environments” or “connected homes embedded in connected habitats”. While promising seamless assistance, this abundance of smart devices can also be seen as “Trojans” that threaten to challenge the protective boundaries of the home and its moral and material possessions. These issues are central to a research project that the authors are involved in. The key ambition of this paper is to revisit the domestication theory framework and its key analytical concepts in the era of IoT. How can such a theoretical perspective, affiliated with sociology of consumption and media studies, and that emanates from studies of traditional media technology and ICT, inform studies on smart, autonomous technology in connected homes? Domestication theory emphasizes human agency and the household moral economy as central in processes of taming, controlling and domesticating technologies as they are brought from the market and converted into familiar and acceptable domestic artefacts. However, in the era of home-IoT, connected devices constantly communicate with the outside world, making households active nodes in digital networks. This generates new challenges and complicates the boundary maintenance efforts of domestic dwellers. The paper will discuss the applicability of domestication theory in studies where households have to navigate and negotiate this landscape of constant connectedness.

Towards New Forms of Organizing the Production in Creative Industries

Yasaman Sadeghi1,2

1Grenoble Ecole de Management; 2Univ Grenoble Alpes ComUE

What is the relationship between what we know about the culture(al) products we consume and the intermediary actors in our decision making processes? The paper explores the challenges that digitally enabled forms of production and consumption imposes on organizing efforts in online platforms. Sociologically, the emergence of digital platforms has changed the dynamics of the creative industry. With recent shifts in asymmetry of information, ‘consumers’ have become empowered while intermediaries do not hold the same power positions as they did previously. However, as promising as such changes in the power dynamics seem to be, empirical evidence suggests that not all the new forms of production succeed. Sociologically this is important because it raises the question of how the digitally enabled forms of production and consumption might be differently organized?

Aiming to draw more attention to organization of newer forms of production in culture industries, this paper focuses on consumption prior to production, as instantiated in settings such as crowdfunding and intangible products. With special focus on market-maker consumers, or the group of consumers who have the ability to shape the market, I explore how their decision-making can be guided when their collective thinking fails to yield determinate results. It may be difficult for market-maker ‘consumers’ to make sense of their environment, as it is difficult to assess the quality of cultural products, they often need to make decisions about them before they are available, and information is abundant and often uncredited. Moreover, the paper explores the extent to which intermediaries give sense to ‘consumers’, in terms of being able to project a general direction for the changing industry of cultural products.

The Reflexive Mediatization of Consumption

Paul Eisewicht

Technical University Dortmund, Germany

It is still somwehow controversial what the new is about the new media and how social phenomena change exactly when they happen in the digital world.The thesis of this contribution is that this difficulty is related to the fact that primarily media effects are considered in research and thus social change is often attributed to technical innovations. The argument is that change in digital fields can only be understood from the point of view of actors who understand media technology offerings, define situations and act according to their own motives within this media technology framework.

To this end, the classical perspective of social change through innovations in media technology will first be discussed. This concerns above all the argumentation of the spatiotemporal and social dissolution of boundaries in digital spaces, which is negotiated in consumer sociology with the implementation of platform shopping. This perspective is complemented by the focus on the adaptation of action orientations and courses of action by people to media technology conditions. In view of how people understand and adapt media technology frameworks, it becomes clear where consumer action is transformed in digital fields.

This is discussed in the empirical case of complaints in online shopping. On the basis of changed expectations, orientations and actions on the part of providers and consumers, the reflexive effects of digitally mediated social change will be highlighted. The aim is to contribute to the understanding of consumption as an action problem and online shopping as a reflexive practice.

Representations vs Actions in Online Behavior: First Results from an Academic Online Panel of Internet Users

Filipe M. Montargil1,2, Cristian Ruiz1,2, Branco Di Fátima2

1School of Communication and Media Studies, Portugal; 2Centro de Investigação e Estudos de Sociologia (CIES-IUL)

This communication discusses the first results of the comparative analysis between representations and actions in online behavior using results from an academic online panel of Internet users.

This comparative analysis uses two information sources: answers to questions posed to panel members using methods of sociological inquiry and data gathered through a software application that monitors online behavior. The current version of this application is based in a Google Chrome extension that gathers information from the web browser history, for each participant in the panel, allowing to analyse in detail online behavior. Methods of inquiry are used to explore representations and motivations, for these same panel participants.

Differences between representations and actions are discussed since the early years of Sociology and systematically researched in the Social Sciences at least since the 1930s (LaPiere, 1934; Bryman, 2012). The very limitations of short and long-term memory to remember everyday events (Foddy, 1996; Roberts, 1985) lead, among other factors, to differences between what people claim to do and what they effectively do.

Our panel is still at an early stage, receiving its first Internet users in December 2018. However, it has already about 300 registered members, in a sample that includes female and male users with different working conditions, marital status and age groups. Developing methods for mapping online behavior is a pressing challenge, especially in our dynamic societies, when we spend more and more time connected.