Two papers on digital consumption co-authored by Dr Janice Denegri-Knott have been selected to appear in the Journal of Marketing Management’s new Editor’s Choice collection on digital consumption, and will be available free online until the end of November, 2016.
In this paper we discuss and illustrate how the use of software available in digital virtual worlds of consumption, including wish lists, watch lists and digital virtual goods (DVGs) interact with consumer desiring practices. We draw on a data set of three interpretative studies with technology users living in the South of England. We note the emergence of software-human desiring hybrids where various aspects of competence in and commitment to desire construction, maintenance and actualisation are distributed between subject and software, leading to new configurations of consumer desire. We bring to the fore the often neglected role of nonhuman agents in the practice of consumer desire and highlight the potential breaks caused in the assemblage of the practices unfolding in digital virtual worlds of consumption. Our study shows new ways in which consumer desire practices are re-assembled in software-human hybrids, thereby enhancing our understanding of the role of nonhuman agents (software) in consumer desire practices. It also contributes a finer understanding on how software used in the construction and actualization of desire ultimately reconfigure consumer desire practices into a management process, where the focus is not daydreaming activity or material commodities per se, but rather the software itself. Here, the software not only presents things to be desired, but also absorbs some of the skill and competence needed to conjure up desire. Ultimately these configurations appear to create breaks in the experience of desire that weaken the hold previously binding consumers to objects of desire.
This theoretical article highlights limitations in the current trend towards dichotomising full ownership and access-based consumption by recognising a broader, more complex array of ‘fragmented’ ownership configurations in the context of digital virtual goods (DVGs). In challenging this dichotomy, we recognise that the relationship between ownership and possession becomes particularly significant. We therefore consider how prominent DVG ownership configurations may shape the way in which possession is assembled, potentially reducing consumers’ scope of action relative to DVGs and leaving possession susceptible to disruption. Conversely, we acknowledge ways in which consumers’ continued attempts at possession may impinge upon the agency of ownership mechanisms within the market. Our analysis ultimately builds upon existing understandings of both ownership and possession, theorising their often overlooked relation in consumption.