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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-stabilization in the laptop sector

Spinney, Justin, Burningham, Kate, Cooper, Geoff, Green, Nicky and Uzzell, David 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-stabilization in the laptop sector. Journal of Consumer Culture 12 (3) , pp. 347-370. 10.1177/1469540512456928

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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
Status: Published
Schools: Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: consumption; obsolescence; production; qualities; sustainability
Publisher: Sage
ISSN: 1469-5405
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2019 09:06
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/51875

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