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How Users Shape Markets

Associate Professor Debbie Harrison, BI Norwegian Business School

1st May 2012  02:00 pm - 03:00 pm School Building Room 11, Darlington Centre

Users are recognised as key actors in processes of innovation, including technology design, commercialisation and appropriation. This paper shifts the focus from user influence over technology, to how user activity contributes to shape markets. Three principal user roles are synthesized from user-technology research, those of 'user', 'developer' and 'mediator'. Based on the literature on market shaping, we identify five sub-processes in which users could potentially be involved: 'generating market representations', 'establishing market rules and regulations', 'configuring exchange agents', 'framing the mode of exchange', and 'qualifying the objects of exchange'. We then explore user participation in shaping existing markets through four complementary case studies: an effort to standardize customer service in the market for diagnostics instruments, the use of frequent flyer programmes in the market for air travel, the development and spread of car sharing schemes, and the growth of file sharing of digital media via The Pirate Bay. Taken together, the cases provide examples of users assuming all three user roles and becoming involved in all five sub-processes of market shaping, although the level of involvement varies. The paper contributes to our understanding of innovation processes and the presumed link between users and markets by showing that user involvement goes beyond shaping exchange objects, and that users may be involved not only in the establishment of markets, but also in their ongoing organising. The paper also adds to our understanding of market shaping processes by empirically demonstrating various roles via which users participate in efforts to reshape markets.