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'What I've found is that your related experiences tend to make you dissatisfied': Psychological obsolescence, consumer demand and the dynamics and environmental implications of de-stabilisation in the laptop sector’

Spinney, J, Burningham, KA, Cooper, G, Green, N and Uzzell, D (2012) 'What I've found is that your related experiences tend to make you dissatisfied': Psychological obsolescence, consumer demand and the dynamics and environmental implications of de-stabilisation in the laptop sector’ Journal of Consumer Culture, 12 (3). pp. 347-370.

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Abstract

Research on product life-spans tends to link the causes of psychological obsolescence with end-users and product designers, and posits the consequences of obsolescence in terms of increasing e-waste and energy use. Drawing upon qualitative fieldwork conducted with employees of a global computer firm and users of its laptop computers this article brings together the poles of production and consumption to explore the dynamics of de-stabilization in product qualities, connecting the intensification of this process to psychological obsolescence and unsustainable patterns of consumption. First, we demonstrate that consumer-facing functions within the firm such as user research, sales and marketing play a key role in driving the pace of technological change within the firm by specifying consumer demand. We argue that by distilling an imaginary demanding consumer from various sources, the firm justifies and drives rapid de-stabilization in product qualities and specifications. We show how this prompts end consumers to constantly re-evaluate product qualities, devaluing existing products and contributing to psychological obsolescence and disposal of functioning products. We then go on to discuss the environmental implications of this process, suggesting that whilst premature disposal due to perceived obsolescence may not increase waste in the short term, it is still likely to contribute to an increase in material and energy use in manufacturing.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Sociology
Authors :
AuthorsEmailORCID
Spinney, JUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Burningham, KAUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Cooper, GUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Green, NUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Uzzell, DUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Date : 1 November 2012
Identification Number : 10.1177/1469540512456928
Uncontrolled Keywords : consumption, obsolescence, production, qualities, sustainability
Related URLs :
Additional Information : Copyright 2012 Sage Publications
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 03 Apr 2014 11:06
Last Modified : 09 Jun 2014 13:49
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/769625

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