Presidential Session Summary Alternative Representations of Consumer Research

Deborah D. Heisley, UCLA
[ to cite ]:
Deborah D. Heisley (1999) ,"Presidential Session Summary Alternative Representations of Consumer Research", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, eds. Eric J. Arnould and Linda M. Scott, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 239.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, 1999      Page 239

PRESIDENTIAL SESSION SUMMARY

ALTERNATIVE REPRESENTATIONS OF CONSUMER RESEARCH

Deborah D. Heisley, UCLA

This session is based on the idea, now current in sociology, anthropology, rhetorical analysis of science, consumer behavior and other academic writing that no format of research presentation is "privileged or intrinsically better than others, that every format makes it easy to say some things and hard to say others equally worth saying, and that it is therefore worth experimenting with modes of representation (Becker, Mccall, and Morris 1989)." Barbara Stern’s (1998) recent book on alternative representations in consumer research, the 1998 Association for Consumer Research Presidential address by John Sherry utilizing poetry as a communication device for research insights, this session, and others’ efforts will hopefully help broaden research presentation options for the consumer behavior field.

Consistent with the intention to focus this year’s Association for Consumer Research conference on "Dialogue, Difference, and Delight," this session provides an opportunity to explore alternative forms of representation in consumer research. Overall, the session extends the richness of consumer behavior research options by providing an outlet for presentation formats that cannot be fully featured in the traditional formats of textually-based journals and Powerpoint presentations C namely, a large screen 3-D presentation, poetry readings, and a play. These presentations contribute to the fields’ body of research with meaningful and relevant content; yet our main goal in this session is to represent different ways of presenting research and sharing knowledge. Our common thread in this session is the uniqueness of each type of presentation.

First, Morris Holbrook and Takao Kuwahara present a continuation of Holbrook’s work in the area of stereographic representations of visual research. This work builds on the tradition of applying photographic representations to research in anthropology (e.g., Collier), sociology (e.g., Becker), psychology (e.g., Ziller), and marketing (e.g., Zaltman, and Heisley and Levy). Holbrook has applied stereographic methods to the representation of marketing-research data (JMR), to the execution of marketing strategy (Marketing Letters), and (with Kuwahara) to the exploration of the phenomenology of consumption experiences (IJRM). In their ACR presentation, Holbrook and Kuwahara demonstrate how large screen stereo 3-D representations can enhance clarity, vividness, realism and depth in the presentation of visual displays relevant to consumer research.

Second, John Sherry, George Zinkhan, and John Schouten read poetry that draws on their introspection and experience as consumer researchers. This group of writers, and others, feel that some of their consumer behavior insights are best expressed through poetry or other lyrical moes of expression. John Schouten’s poems in the Odyssey book Highways and Buyways, Journal of Advertising, and the International Journal of Research in Marketing, Sidney Levy’s poem in his December 1997 JCR article "Stalking the Amphisbaena," George Zinkhan’s poetry in the ACR Newsletter, and Morris Holbrook’s revival in Consumer Research of neoclassical poetic forms have all contributed to this emerging genre. John Sherry’s, George Zinkhan’s, and John Schouten’s readings at ACR contribute to consumer research substantively through their poetic insights, to the poetry genre in general, and to the methods of presentation in the field in particular. The poetry readings as a presentation method are especially appropriate for ACR’s conference in that a live reading obviously cannot be done in a publication format. Finally, these readings provide the ACR membership a chance to discuss their beliefs about and reactions to poetry as a vehicle for consumer research. Schouten and Sherry have chosen not to include their poems in the proceedings.

Third, Deborah Cours, Deborah Heisley, Melanie Wallendorf, and Dylan Johnson present a play developed from a set of interviews with a family about its heirlooms and the researchers’ interpretations of those interviews. Substantive findings of familial interactions, negotiations, and conflict surrounding issues of the allocation of familial goods are presented. The researchers present multiple interpretations of the dialogue as it unfolds. The play differs from the typical journal article in its multi-vocality. For example, it is easy for the researchers to disagree in this format, while in an article the goal is to present a unified, consensual argument to the reader. The work draws on the performance-science work of Howard Becker.

Finally, Sidney Levy presents a discussion of the presentations enacted through a conversation with AE, a life-sized soft sculpture created by Sidney to represent his alter-ego. Levy’s participation offers a timely follow-up to his recent JCR article that discusses, among other things, the ambivalence we have about introspection in our science. Levy calls for the journal [field] to "continue its tradition of receptivity to fresh areas of inquiry, novel theoretical formulations, and variations in methodology" (p. 164).

A video of the poetry, play and discussion may be made available at a later date.

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