Being the Shopper

Ironically, shopping itself has only rarely been the focus of work in consumption in any of these three stages; commentators on consumption have rarely paid much attention to shopping. ?ven studies of department stores and shopping malls devote remarkably little attention to the cultural practices of shopping. Instead these practices are subsumed into a more general interest in an overarching activity called consumption. The shopper therefore nearly always figures as a sign for something else. The book"Being the Shopper" by John Wiley takes the opposite tack. Wiley proclaims in the book what shoppers do and what they understand as 'shopping'. Consumption is an unknown topic but that it is, in some senses, known too well: the unorthodox has become a new orthodoxy with all the problems that entails. Of course, this trajectory is hardly unique. A number of other recent academic subcultures have followed much the same path, for example media studies and the sociology of scientific knowledge. Academic subcultures can even be characterized in some of the same ways as the study of consumption. They are fundamentally interdisciplinary. They are unsure of their exact focus; therefore they debate endlessly their central terms. And they have come to be seen as particularly concerned with different kinds of knowledge and with the nature of the object.

How, then, can we understand modern consumption studies, and, most especially, the place of shopping as a crucial element of such studies?"Being the Shopper" is a critical review of work in this field. To this end, it is in four sections. The first is a brief history of the study of consumption in three stages, highlighting the issues raised by each stage of work. The second then considers shopping itself. Here, the concern is both with the sheer diversity of approaches to shopping that are possible and with beginning to develop the framework which informs the work in the book. (Lempert, 2002) The third section then considers the issues of place and identity as vital determinants of modern consumption. In the final section, the four different threads of consumption, shopping, place and identity are brought together again through a consideration of the literature on shopping malls.

During the analysis of psychology of shopper behavior John Wiley noted that as someone who grew up in city with many big stores, who remembers its original opening and for whom it has always been a major shopping location, the recent changes to that centre have come as something of a shock. In coming to the shoppers we no longer expect some consistent or clear image of either shopping or nature; instead people are faced with a series of overlapping terrains within each of which these terms gain particular meanings and evocations that are brought to bear on the architectural transformation of the centers. (Lempert, 2002) It is only through the kind of intensive work which is represented by this study that we may be able to discern how precisely the experience of shopping in shopping centers has plural connotations for the shopper that produce the actual conceptualizations of nature and modernity that they employ. ...

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