Sustainable consumption practices
We describe obsolescence as a social-technical phenomenon, assuming that obsolescence is not caused by the material properties of the technology alone. Obsolescence is merely reconstructed as a part of practice formations in which economical, production, marketing and consumer practices are intricately interwoven. The research focus “sustainable consumptions practices” aims to investigate how social practices of consumers contribute to shortened usage period and product lifetimes.
The actions of consumers are analysed from a practice theoretical perspective approach (see also theory of obsolescence). Actions and decisions in different phases of product handling – from pre-purchase to storage or disposal – are embedded into formations of social practices. Social practices are organised and relatively stable patterns of activities that are carried out in certain social settings (such as workplace, household) on the basis of practical know-how and understandings. For example, the disposal of a device that is still usable or the purchase of a new or additional device is no longer regarded as an individual decision but is consistently embedded in social processes of meaning allocation (what is considered to be old or modern, outmoded or desirable) and systems of provision. Additionally, the role of practical knowledge regarding products (eg knowledge of lifetime issues or repair possibilities, know-how regarding maintenance and repair) and material as well as socio-spatial factors (product characteristics, availability of new products vs. repair services, etc.) influence the length of the serviceable life.
A further focus will be on knowledge about and interest in long-lasting products and eco-design options (longevity, modularity and reparability) in different social segments. The aim is to develop a typology of consumer practices that increase or decrease product lifetimes. We further try to identify group-specific barriers to sustainable consumption and to generate insights into how long usage periods and longevity can be fostered.
For further information please contact Melanie Jaeger-Erben and Tamina Hipp