School Undergraduates Contribute to Research on Consumer Experiences

Dr Janet Borgerson, Reader in Philosophy and Management and Lecturer on the third year undergraduate module ‘Consumer Research’ has produced an edited conference proceedings entitled Exploring Consumer Experience. The conference was open to the public and presented ten papers in which different consumer experiences were chosen, explored, and de-constructed by students using the analytical concepts and techniques learned from their course.

Dr Borgerson says that fundamental concepts, including the philosophical vocabulary specifically drawn upon in consumer research, and basic processes of inquiry provide tools that allow students to begin formulating, articulating, and investigating their own original research questions around consumer experience early in the semester. This makes possible “original contributions to consumer research even at the undergraduate level.” She writes that her approach to consumer research “attempts to provoke and amplify students’ curiosity, critical insight and analytic abilities.”

The results are impressive. Consumer experiences such as watching football, shopping at TopShop or communicating on Facebook are carefully analysed and interpreted as different types of consumer experience. The paper on Football Consumption and Identity concludes that “The football experience in one of the few arenas where men are allowed to behave in this somewhat primitive and competitive nature, the idealised form of masculinity”.  In deconstructing the shopping experience at TopShop, the paper concludes, “The Topshop environment uses a collection of sensations such as colour, music, images, clothing and people, creating a ‘fashionscape’ ultimately fuelling the possibility and fantasy of consumer dreams”. Facebook, analysed by the students who are its main users, is described by them as “a hyper-reality which can foster false ideals. These ideals may be perceived as the truth in digital format however in the real world they are often distorted.”

The proceedings show that thoughtful, creative and insightful analysis of consumer experience, undertaken at the same level a consumer research agency might choose, can be produced by undergraduates, who will now enter the graduate employment market with a piece of original research.

Date: 13 March 2008

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