The underlying assumption in social sciences is that we need materiality. But what happens to consumers when 'stuff' can be digitized, divorced from its original tangibility, such as music on a computer, or art work in a virtual gallery?

Richard Kedzior

A pair of questions has prompted Professor Richard Kedzior, management, to explore entire online virtual worlds.

Kedzior began his academic career examining materiality – the inevitable presence and significance of material objects, or "stuff" in our lives. That line of thinking, along with advances in the digital technologies, has led him to focus now on this question: What happens in situations where materiality is separated from tangibility in online digital environments? "The underlying assumption in social sciences is that we need materiality. We need stuff," Kedzior says. "But what happens to consumers when 'stuff' can be digitized, divorced from its original tangibility, such as music on a computer, or art work in a virtual gallery?" Kedzior refers to this particular condition of objects being material, yet not tangible as digital materiality.

His broader research interests lie within the realm of Consumer Culture Theory which represents a medley of predominantly interpretivist and qualitative approaches to understanding consumer behavior. "We are not just numbers on a spreadsheet or clusters of dissected attitudes," says Kedzior. "We are all very much embedded in the culture." This is one of the main points he tries to communicate to students in the course  Understanding Consumers. As he stresses, "unexamined cultural assumptions resemble fish in water, not very aware of their environment." Therefore, it is at the core of learning to move students away from simply acting and thinking as consumers to taking a more managerial perspective.

Just as Kedzior started with a couple of questions that piqued his current research interests, he wants students to ask their own questions. "How do retailers design this experience for me to enjoy it as a consumer?" Kedzior says. "Why do they shift items around the supermarket every now and then?"

Kedzior often incorporates various media into his work. "I am a tech nerd and a media junkie," Kedzior says. "That comes through in my teaching." He laughs about students who say he must watch everything that is going on, assuring them that he does not, because to monitor everything would be an impossible task. "The beauty of it is – if you harness the creativity of students who are genuinely interested and bring materials themselves – that is where it is really getting interesting because they will co-create their classroom experience," he says. "It keeps everyone engaged." 

Posted October 10, 2013


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