Producing experience in marketplace encounters : a study of consumption experiences in art exhibitions and trade fairs

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School of Business | Doctoral thesis (monograph) | Defence date: 2007-05-14
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188 s
Acta Universitatis oeconomicae Helsingiensis. A, 299
This dissertation is concerned with the consumption process in relation to cultural services. More specifically, the aim is to identify the cultural themes through which consumers communicate consumption meanings while visiting exhibitions and thereby shed light on the nature of consumer activeness in the production of meanings for cultural services and related consumption experiences. In the previous research on consumer encounters with cultural services, the analytical focus has mainly been on the interactions between the service provider and the consumer regarding the locus in which the service provider produces the particular cultural service and the consumer experiences it. The first shortcoming of this view is a predetermined understanding of the consumer’s value emphasis. By identifying the core experience and the peripheral experience, this view finalizes what constitutes the most valuable experience and what constitutes the less valuable experience for the consumer beforehand. The second shortcoming is an excessive focus on interaction where the focus of attention in value creation is on the interaction between the consumer and the cultural organization. However, in the context of cultural services, there seem to be manifold interactions occurring in the marketplace that are important in the production of meanings for cultural services and related experiences. The third shortcoming relates to the embedded belief in the division of control. It is understood that through careful planning and organization of the encounters the service provider can gain control over the service delivery. Consumers in turn control their own experiences. However, it is not always possible to control the delivery of a cultural service. For example, the media acts as an important provider of meanings for art exhibitions. This study aims to provide more understanding of this multi-faceted value creation of cultural services and related experiences. It suggests that value-creation of cultural services occurs in the marketplace through various cultural processes in which different marketplace actors take part. The study aims to increase understanding of this matter from the consumers’ point of view and answers the following research questions: how do consumers give meaning to the consumption experience of cultural services in marketplace encounters? What kinds of cultural themes can be identified in the consumption process of exhibitions? In what ways do the cultural themes relate to each other in the consumption process? A framework has been developed for analysis of the value-creation of cultural services. The theoretical framework draws on the poststructuralist, social constructionist, cultural studies and service marketing approaches. The study suggests that the value of a cultural service and related experiences is not determined beforehand but produced in the marketplace in on-going negotiations in which different actors take part. Service encounters are seen as positions in the marketplace where the struggle for meanings takes place. Consumers are perceived as active agents taking part in the meaning-making occurring in the marketplace. The methodological approach in this study draws on ethnography. The main data consisted of 23 on-site consumer interviews and 22 visitor essays. They were analyzed with a hermeneutic, iterative approach. Based on the data, four cultural themes through which consumers give meaning to consumption experience of cultural services were identified. These themes were called sensibility, progress, corporality, and fellowship. Each theme consists of several sub-themes which are analyzed in detail. The study suggests that consumers take part in the struggle of meaning of experience in marketplace encounters as aesthetic agents. Keywords: consumption experience, cultural service, service encounter, struggle, cultural process, art exhibition, trade fair.
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Uusitalo, Liisa, professor
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