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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Management

Year Degree Awarded

Spring 2014

First Advisor

George R. Milne

Subject Categories

Marketing | Sports Management

Abstract

Digital technologies have become a ubiquitous element in contemporary consumption practices. Consumers shop online, take online classes, play fantasy sports, date online, have virtual personal trainers in their phones and even live virtual lives. How do such digital experiences integrate into and reflect upon consumption experiences in the material world? In this dissertation, I propose a theory of sociotechnical consumption that explores this relationship through the digital empowerment (technical) and social interaction (social) elements embedded in consumer products and services in digital spaces. Accordingly, I extend the concept of sociotechnical to the study of consumer behavior, advocating the perspective that studying the technological aspects of entities is incomplete without considering their relationships with the associated social aspects.

I develop and investigate this theory through a multi-method approach, which is elaborated via three essays. Essay one applies the grounded theory methodology to explore consuming experiences in digital spaces in the context of online fantasy football. Essay two provides a conceptual inquiry of consumer empowerment from a sociotechnical perspective illustrating an integrative framework that bridges consumer empowerment literature with the social impact theory (Latané 1981) to discuss research gaps and theory development opportunities. In doing so, it also addresses the disarray surrounding the concept with a broader definition and an exhaustive typology. Finally, essay three quantitatively examines the complementary role of digital consumption on consumers’ everyday lives in relation to the sociotechnical elements of complementary products and services.

Together, these essays highlight sociotechnical consumption as a theoretical tool to explore the interaction and the optimization of the social and technical elements of consumer offerings. More specifically, it provides a sociotechnical perspective for marketing and consumer research to simultaneously study the digital empowerment of consumers along with the many social interaction opportunities available during digital consumption. In doing so, it illuminates valuable insights for managers who want to optimize the social and technical elements of their digital market offerings in a way that would contribute to more positive consumer responses.

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