Date of Award

8-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Business Administration

Major Professor

Daniel J. Flint

Committee Members

David W. Schumann, Ernest R. Cadotte, Ronald E. Taylor

Abstract

The purpose of this dissertation was to explore the phenomenon of consumer interaction with mobile technology devices (MTDs). MTDs include electronic “gadgets” such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) and smartphones that are carried and used frequently by consumers. The emphasis in this dissertation was on developing an explanatory framework to account for everyday experiences of MTD consumption. In light of limited consumer research on the pervasive phenomenon, an inductive, theory-building approach was taken, employing the constant comparative methodology of grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss 1967; Glaser 1978). Data was gathered primarily through in-depth interviews with 20 participants who had extensive familiarity with the phenomenon. Convergence on a “core category” of Cultivating the Self explained the majority of variance in participants‟ social psychological processes while interacting with MTDs. By Cultivating the Self, consumers interact intimately with mobile technology devices in myriad ways over time, investing “psychic energy” (Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton 1981) into the products in order to actualize goals and therefore actualize themselves, all the while becoming closer to the devices, both figuratively and literally. The core category is comprised of three interrelated stages: Transitioning, Integrating and Bonding. By Transitioning to their devices, consumers undergo a fundamental and totalizing “ecological” change in their lives as they come to understand and assimilate interactions with MTDs. Through Integrating their devices, consumers select and align activities in their daily lives with capabilities that arise from interacting with their MTDs, “offloading” tasks to the products in a process that blurs the distinction between “personal” and “professional” lives. By Bonding, consumers make the products “their own” as they become increasingly proximate and intimate with their MTDs through customizing, personifying and interacting playfully with them. Extant theory was considered in extending properties of the core category, with special attention given to the ontological and epistemological differences between structuralist and interactionist paradigms underlying prior research on human-object relations. A symbolic interactionist view of human behavior was demonstrated as supporting emergent conceptualizations of the phenomenon. The interactionist approach and emergent theory developed through this dissertation provides support for the Service-Dominant Logic views currently evolving in contemporary marketing thought.

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