A New Consumerism: The Influence of Social Technologies on Product Design
DS 78: Proceedings of the 16th International conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE14), Design Education and Human Technology Relations, University of Twente, The Netherlands, 04-05.09.2014
Editor: Erik Bohemia, Arthur Eger, Wouter Eggink, Ahmed Kovacevic, Brian Parkinson, Wessel Wits
Author: de Vere, Ian
Institution: Brunel University, London, UK
Section: Using Technical Tools in Design
Social media has enabled a new style of consumerism. Consumers are no longer passive recipients; instead they are assuming active and participatory roles in product design and production, facilitated by interaction and collaboration in virtual communities. This new participatory culture is blurring the boundaries between the specific roles of designer, consumer and producer, creating entrepreneurial opportunities for designers, and empowering consumers to influence product strategies. Evolving designer-consumer interactions are enabling an enhanced model of co-production, through a value-adding social exchange that is driving changes in consumer behaviour and influencing both product strategies and design practice. The consumer is now a knowledgeable participant, or prosumer, who can contribute to user–centred research through crowd sourcing, collaborate and co-create through open-source or open-innovation platforms, assist creative endeavours by pledging venture capital through crowd funding and advocate the product in blogs and forums. Social media-enabled product implementation strategies working in conjunction with digital production technologies (e.g. additive manufacture), enable consumer-directed adaptive customisation, product personalisation, and self-production, with once passive consumers becoming product producers.
Not only is social media driving unprecedented consumer engagement and significant behavioural change, it is emerging as a major enabler of design entrepreneurship, creating new collaborative opportunities. Innovative processes in design practice are emerging, such as the provision of digital artefacts and customisable product frameworks, rather than standardised manufactured solutions.
This paper examines the influence of social media-enabled product strategies on the methodology of the next generation of product designers, and discusses the need for an educational response.