Consumption in the everyday imagination: how consumer culture gives shape to everyday thinking .
Authors: Jenkins, R.
Conference: Bournemouth University; Media SchoolAbstract:
This research focuses on consumption in the everyday imagination in order to develop a contextualised understanding of how different aspects of consumption sit in relation to other concerns of everyday life. I consider how the imagination has been approached in consumer research in comparison to other fields concerned with its study and note a rather narrow approach that conceptualises and studies the imagination in terms of pleasurable, future orientated, desire-based daydreams created around consumer goods and experiences, where such goods are considered central to, and key resources in, the creation of imagined scenarios. I argue that the methodological framing of this dominant approach may restrict a broader understanding of the imagination and the role of consumption within it. Drawing from phenomenological interviews with 20 individuals about their everyday experiences of imagining I suggest a reframing of the imagination in consumer research, in which I present a taxonomy of imagination that helps to define and distinguish forms of imagining according to a number of characteristics, specifically the; degree of abstraction; temporal location; level of elaboration; and emotion. It also accounts for different levels of presence for consumption practices, consumer goods and services, and consumer culture, as well as a number of precursors and outcomes for imagining. I further note a number of complexities with regard to imaginative practices and the relationship between the imagination and material reality, including the journey of dream pursuit and actualisation. I consider the imagination as a place where we manage our emotions and outcomes for material reality, but that is also managed by material reality as we think about and imagine in-line with what is likely to transpire so as to prevent disappointment in material reality. And far from a private and individualised sphere, the imagination emerges as a highly social domain.
In developing this contextualised understanding I argue that in the imagination we are able to avoid the prominence of consumption practices and consumer goods and services in daily life as we experience a transient autonomy that is conditional on imagining remaining ideal. This autonomy enables us to focus on more warmly human scripts and concerns, yet the pervasiveness of the broader consumer culture continues to provide a compelling narrative to our imagined scenarios, and once attempts at actualisation are made this autonomy is lost.
Preferred by: Rebecca Jenkins