Engaging with internet technologies within the home: multi-tasking & the (Re/Trans)formation of domestic consumption practices
Elms, Jonathan and de Kervenoael, Ronan and Hallsworth, Alan (2006) Engaging with internet technologies within the home: multi-tasking & the (Re/Trans)formation of domestic consumption practices. In: 5th Customer Research Academy Workshop (CRAWS), International and Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Customer Behaviour, Manchester
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It has readily been acknowledged that as an outcome of the proliferation of Internet technologies within the home, many practices and activities which were once attributed to the ‘public’ spheres have become increasingly prevalent within the ‘private’ domain. Despite the huge corpus of the research concerning the domestification of technologies, there is a relative dearth of insight into how and why consumers engage with the multifaceted applications of Internet technologies, and how such technologies facilitate multiple and simultaneous activities within the household. In a bid to address these substantive issues, the focus of this paper is to explore how consumers actively engage with Internet technologies, in this instance for grocery shopping, and how, if any, this engagement changes the trajectories of online consumption practices alongside the complex rhythms and everyday domestic routines of contemporary household life. Drawing on Warde’s (2005) notion of “consumption-as-practice” , which emphasises the analytical nexus of what people say and what they do, this paper describes the initial analysis of 42 semi-structured exploratory telephone interviews and a series of accompanied online grocery shopping trips, based on the shopping with consumers’ protocol . More specifically, this paper presents one of the most salient themes which has emerged from our analysis, namely that of “multi-tasking”. In other words, our concern is the degree to which, and the conditions which give rise to, consumers engaging in a seemingly ‘singular’ activity, that is shopping for groceries online, whilst simultaneously conducting a series of other online activities, such as, for example, emailing, banking, messaging, and searching for information and so on. Our discussion further explores how consumers talk about their engagement with the Internet; the influence of often multiple users, using multiple technologies, for example, PCs, PDAs and mobile telephones, has on the process and conduction of household routines and activities; and, the extent to which households’ use of the internet challenges conventional inter-organisational dynamics and domestic consumption practices. In terms of a tentative conclusion, our analysis suggests that there is a dialectical relationship between the household engagement with Internet technologies and their integration with other areas of everyday domestic life. That is, while internet technologies offer consumers increasing freedom and control over established household routines, activities and practices; household engagement with Internet technologies have, conversely, re/transformed domestic consumption practices into an alternative repertoires of complex, multi-faceted activities, and routines embedded within a shifting melange of social-spatial relations.
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