Time and Culture in Consumer Behaviour: Framing the Future

Thomas Derek Robinson

Research output: ThesisPh.D. thesis


Existing studies on technology in CCT have mainly been retrospective and historical, overlooking the fact that technology is chiefly understood and interpreted instrumentally through its future implications. Also, these studies involve assumptions of uni-linear modernity and empirical studies performed almost wholly in a US setting. Drawing on a corpus of British (N=170) and Danish (N=156) newspaper articles about GM-crops, robotics, and energy this thesis addresses this shortfall by conducting a comparative case study of how the future is used to present technology media between 2000-2012 in a critical theory paradigm. This was done in order to understand the sociocultural basis and contextualizing effect of the imagined future for consumer behaviour in a setting of multiple modernities. Using a ‘most similar systems design’ the study identifies the causal effect of cultural resources for articulating the future and technology. It is found that the future is articulated in terms of how technology intervenes in ‘society’, ‘spatiality’ and ‘selfhood’, and that these categories represent what Wilk terms ‘structures of common difference’ (1995). The study maps out the cultural dimensions of the social, spatial and individual orientation towards the future (displayed in figure 37) and thereby the dimensions of how this contextualizing system of common differences “shape[s] the universe[s] in which the consumer choices [towards the future] can unfold…” (Askegaard & Kjeldgaard 2002: 31-32).

The thesis thereby contributes to: 1) A sociologized and intersubjective theory of consumer temporality drawing on the critical philosophy of Paul Ricoeur. Unlike traditional agentic or cognitivitst theory of temporality employed in CCT, this consumer culture temporality adheres to the epistemological requirements given in the ‘context of context’ debates; 2) An inclusive Heideggarian, sociocultural concept of consumer technology based on a specific and operationalizable concept of ‘practical holism’. This emphasizes ‘the pervasiveness of the background’ (Dreyfuss 2014: 131-132), which is external to the consumer subject and moves CCT beyond the traditional concept of technology as merely ‘a complicated machine’. Here narratives about the future contextualize the consumption of technology by allowing issues of instrumentality and risk to appear in a specific setting. And finally, 3) The study shows that consumption, marketing, and technology converge through the concept of the future, which has important practical application in the form of an additional 5th ‘P’ in the marketing mix. Thus, ‘Posterity’ refers to the future orientation of a product through culturally situated instrumentality. This supplements ‘Place’, ‘Price’, ‘Product’ and ‘Promotion’, since the definition of the market emphasises ‘usage’ (Percey and Elliott 2005: 115) which can only be properly understood through future narratives and thus a hermeneutics and culture of time.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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