Sustaining Familial Relations in Technology Consumption: Confucian Values and Social Structure in Chinese Families

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Objectives This study aims to give an interpretive account of technology consumption and foreground the cultural values and social structure in Chinese culture. The research context is television and video viewing in Chinese families. Current research on technology consumption lacks understanding of the sociocultural drivers and constructs and how the use of technology manifests these structures. In uncovering these perspectives from a cross-cultural approach, this study adds insights to consumer experiences of technology consumption and extends literature in the stream of Consumer Culture Theory (CCT). Methodology To explore consumer experiences of television and video viewing, the present study follows the traditions of hermeneutic to gain an understanding of consumer meanings and pursue the cultural and social background in consumer narratives (Thompson 1997). In total 11 phenomenological interviews were conducted to gain descriptive accounts of consumers’ “lived experiences.” The interviews were conducted in Mandarin Chinese. Important excerpts related to the emerged themes were later translated into English and presented in findings. Findings Through empirical findings, I present a framework that illustrates the tensions and the drivers of which Chinese consumers follow propriety in the dyadic relationships of parent-child and husband-wife. First, the tensions in the parent-child relationship arise from parents’ wishes to maintain interdependence with their children and children’s wants to pursue self-interests. In this type of relationship, the two roles are influenced by the Confucian ethics of filial benevolence and filial piety separately. Second, the tensions between husband and wife or cohabiting partner are evident in the maintenance of power dynamics. In this type of relationship, the subordinates conform to the rules established in the relationship to sustain intimacy and compromise their consumption choices to their counterparts. Meanwhile, subordinates also relieve themselves from the rules to regain momentary autonomy. The findings suggest future research of technology ideologies in the Chinese and other cultural contexts and further investigation in the relationships between technology consumption and broader institutional structure beyond family ties.
Thesis advisor
Toyoki, Sammy
Tillotson, Jack
technology, culture, Chinese consumers, Confucianism
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