Allotment Gardening as a Consumer Strategy for Alleviating Urban Alienation

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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This thesis explores intentional interaction between different spatial settings as a way to deal with sociocultural tensions, thus uncovering strategies that consumers can use to alleviate alienation. Allotment gardens provide a suitable context for the study because they are contrasting sub-milieus in the urban sphere. The aim is to develop a possible understanding of the function of allotment gardens in today’s cities where consumers must cope with alienation. Simultaneously, the objective is to broaden our knowledge of consumers as creators of their emancipatory experiences and learn more about revitalizing spatial settings that are part of the everyday milieu of the consumer. As typical for interpretivist CCT research, the study relies on ethnography. The data was collected through non-participant observation together with semi-structured interviews and was then interpreted in the light of existing literature. Previous research has recognized the capacity of therapeutic spaces to work as emancipatory vehicles. Yet, the past focus has been on exceptional contexts and marketer-led experiences. Hence, more knowledge is needed of places that are part of people’s natural habitat and where the consumers themselves act as producers. Consequently, the question this thesis answers is: How do consumers alleviate alienation without disrupting their daily lives and free of marketers’ facilitation? The research led to conceptualizing allotment gardening as a practice that alleviates urban alienation. Consumers intentionally frequent the heterotopia to ease the frustrations stemming from modern life. Specifically, this process happens through the following elements: connecting with nature in the city, immersing into concrete activities and belonging to a close-knit community. These enable consumers to temporarily balance the contemporary inconveniences, and thus they feel better when returning to the alienated sphere. The negotiation happens through recurring visits to the de-alienating environment. The thesis contributes to earlier papers by enlarging the theorizations about consumer emancipation from alienation to an ordinary and nearby setting. It shows that alleviating alienation is possible in niche environments even if their surroundings would contest it. Allotment gardens give the needed opposition to the alienations but are at the same time connected to the city, thus letting the consumers continue their lives as usual. The contributions of the study also extend existing research on alleviating alienation to instances where consumers have the main responsibility for the production of the experience. The thesis demonstrates that consumers themselves are capable of orchestrating de-alienating offering. Together allotment gardeners assemble a solution they need, without higher order guidance from the marketers. These insights are important also from the practical point of view as they present a de-alienation strategy that is more functional and relevant than the past proposals for the majority of consumers.
Thesis advisor
Weijo, Henri
Padhaiskaya, Tatsiana
urban alienation, allotment garden, de-alienation, consumer culture theory
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