Performing consumer daydreams and fantasies through digital play

Authors: Molesworth, M. and Denegri-Knott, J.

Conference: Playful Subjects, symposium on technology, agency and computer games

Dates: 13-14 May 2005


Consumption has long been conceptualised as the realisation of desire-laden daydreams through the performance of shopping (for example Campbell 1987; McCraken 1988; Urry 2002). But this has meant that there has been a limit to that which consumers can desire based on the ability of the market to provide commodities and experiences, as well as the economic ability of consumers to pay. Although this has produced a diverse and elaborate range of consumer experiences (see Gottdiener 2000), the development of virtual spaces, especially in digital games and online, may be allowing for a rapid expansion in the range of consumer imaginations that may be actualised.

In this paper we draw from Shield’s (2000) development of a framework for explaining the relationships between the real and the possible to explore the ways that consumer daydreams and fantasies can be actualised through the performance of digital play. We consider examples from video games such as The Sims and also from online shops, including eBay. We use these to argue that digital play may be allowing for, and encouraging further developments in the already acknowledged evolution of the market into something that deals with aesthetic performances more than material goods (for example see Featherstone, 1991 or Lee 1993). We therefore further argue, as Shields does, that digital play with consumption has something of a liminoid and therefore transformational quality consistent with Turner’s (1992) observations, including about the experiences of shopping. As such digital play has the potential to produce new consumers cultures where the abstract is realised in the virtual and then actualised in performance.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Janice Denegri-Knott