35th EGOS Colloquium

Enlightening the Future:
The Challenge for Organizations

 

University of Edinburgh Business School

July 4–6, 2019

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

 

 

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Sub-theme 56: Enlightening Consumption? The Arts of Attachment and Sentiment in Contemporary Market Organizing

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Convenors:
Alexandre Mallard
MINES ParisTech, France
Liz McFall
University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Tsutomu Nakano
Aoyama Gakuin University, Japan

Call for Papers


This sub-theme explores human attachment to objects as a critical yet understudied driver of contemporary markets (Cochoy et al., 2017). Consumers in advanced digital economies are often saturated with high-quality products and excessive, overflowing information. This has led producers and sellers to experiment with new methodologies and new theories that go beyond traditional consumer research to understand what it is that attaches people. A focus on the ‘arts’ of orchestrating attachments and sentiments offers a different perspective on why some products ‘enlighten consumption’ while others do not. Understanding how markets organise sentiment and attachment has the potential to inform how goods for public consumption are financed, developed, delivered and traded. The use of markets as solutions to social problems has not been distinguished by success (Neyland & Milyaeva, 2016) so if markets can enlighten public consumption how might this work?
 
Theoretically speaking, affects as sentiments and habitual traditions are as important as the value-rational and economic social actions conceptualised in Max Weber’s sociology. The role of sentiment in forging market attachments offers an alternative perspective on what drives commercial markets to the rational economic model and offers ideas to rethink how markets can function. At the same time, this research matters not just for our understanding of how commercial markets work but for how this applies to goods for public consumption including healthcare, public parks, broadband infrastructures, street lighting, refuse collection etc. Patterns of inclusion, exclusion and inequality are shaped in markets, quasi-markets and public services.
 
The existing literature shows how markets emerge, are embedded, regulated, performed or devised (MacKenzie et al., 2007; Callon et al., 2017; McFall, 2014). Markets assume many different patterns, they can adopt plural forms where the same goods can be positioned in different configurations of value across different markets (Frankel, 2015). They involve selecting and collecting mechanisms that do not just dissolve social bonds, but also create and rearrange social, technical, emotional, legal, sentimental and practical links.
 
How do people get lured by, or attached to products, objects and services? Is attachment to products different from attachment to other things? Does getting attached to market things (products, services, commodities) differ from other forms of human-object relations? Values may originate in aesthetic, ethical and economic dimensions as worth, which come in transitive styles across networks (Beckert, 2016). Moreover, Callon (2017) has suggested that three different kinds of attachment devices are at work in markets. There are attachment devices designed to ‘listen’; to ‘co-produce’ and finally to ‘hook’ or even addict consumers where bodies and affects are heavily engaged in an economy of sentiments (Zelizer, 1994). Are the values created by such attachment and sentiments compatible with consumer enlightenment?
 
The sub-theme revisits market mechanisms from the point of view of ties between actors and objects as a way to open the “iron cage" again, employing knowledge from the interconnecting fields of valuation, market studies and cultural economy. There are many empirical sites, moments, processes, and devices (Berthoin Antal et al., 2015) and many theoretical and methodological approaches that will enrich this enquiry. We are particularly interested in proposals exploring the following broad themes:

  • Moments and continuity: How are attachments and sentiments linked to the different stages of product value-chains (e.g. co-creation, advertising, point of sales, after-sales services, data analytics and algorithmic recommendation engines, etc.)?

  • Sites of attachments: What devices are used at different sites and social spaces? Do different market sites produce different forms of attachment, different forms of sentiment? How do technological platforms affect emergent cultures of interaction or vice-versa at these sites and spaces? How do the sociotechnical processes of attachment and sentiment rely on technological infrastructures for scale economies of marketization? What are the tool kits including icons, memories, and stories to bridge the layers? Where are the boundaries and how these factors generate the demarcation?

  • Cognition, transformation, and scope economies. How do consumers’ cognitive mechanisms operate and change over their lifetime? How do they support the scope of attachment occurring when consumers and consumers recombine products to create new objects of attachment (e.g. Apple, Spotify, Google, and Amazon, among others)?

  • Exit and detachment processes: How does the cutting of ties or termination of relationships between products and consumers occur? What are triggers, inducements, turn-offs or critical points of no return as part of the decision making process? How would they draw boundaries once the decisions have been made?

  • Political programs and legitimation: On the basis of an understanding of sentiment and attachment practices, what are the marketing agendas or programs that may lead to the ‘consumer enlightenment’ instead of addiction and dependence? Are markets necessarily a contest between commercial interests and consumer protections?

 
 

References

  • Berthoin Antal, A., Hutter, M., Stark, D. (eds.) (2015): Moments of Valuation: Exploring Sites of Dissonance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Beckert, J. (2016): Imagined Futures: Fictional Expectations and Capitalist Dynamics. London: Harvard University Press.
  • Callon, M. (2017): “The Devices of Attachment.” In: F. Cochoy, J. Deville & L. McFall (eds.): Markets and the Arts of Attachment. London: Routledge, 180–195.
  • Callon, M., Muniesa, F., & Millo, Y. (2007): Market Devices. Cambridge: Blackwell.
  • Cochoy, F., Deville, J., & McFall, L. (eds.) (2017): Markets and the Arts of Attachment. London: Routledge.
  • Frankel, C. (2015): “The Multiple-Markets Problem.” Journal of Cultural Economy, 8 (4), 538–546.
  • Hennion, A. (2001): “Music Lovers: Taste as Performance.” Theory, Culture & Society, 18 (5), 1–22.
  • MacKenzie, D., Muniesa, F., & Siu, L. (eds.) (2007): Do Economists Make Markets? On the Performativity of Economics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • McFall, L. (2014): Devising Consumption. Cultural Economies of Insurance, Credit and Spending. London: Routledge.
  • Neyland, D., & Milyaeva, S. (2016): “The Entangling of Problems, Solutions and Markets. On building a market for privacy.” Science as Culture, 25 (3), 305–326.
  • Zelizer, V.A. (1994): The Social Meaning of Money. New York: Basic Books.
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Alexandre Mallard is Director of the Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation at MINES ParisTech, PSL Research University, France. Originally trained as a sociologist of science and technology, he now works in the field of economic sociology. Alexandre has conducted research on sales activity, on very small businesses and on the rise of network interactions in the corporate environment. His current research projects investigate the social inscription of innovation, at the crossroads between economic sociology and political science.
Liz McFall is Chancellor’s Fellow in the Edinburgh Futures Institute and Sociology at the University of Edinburgh, UK. She co-edited “Markets and the Arts of Attachment” with Franck Cochoy and Joe Deville, and is author of “Devising Consumption. Cultural Economies of Insurance, Credit and Spending” (Routledge, 2014) and “Advertising: A Cultural Economy” (SAGE, 2004). She is Co-editor-in-Chief of the ‘Journal of Cultural Economy’.
Tsutomu Nakano is Professor of Organization and Strategy at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, Japan, and on external faculty of the Center on Organizational Innovation, Columbia. Published two books on network analysis, organization, and strategy (in Japanese), Tom’s present research projects include valuation of audio equipments and sound, co-creation of analog and digital cultures, crafts and marketization, and social design of markets.
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