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They are contrasted with the materialist, dumb, inflexible or even destructive nature of traditional consumption.However, even with regard to traditional consumption, materialistic and processual explanations are not always appropriate.Vili Lehdonvirta This is an html version of the introductory part of a doctoral dissertation originally published in print (ISBN: 978-952-249-019-3) and and as a pdf file (ISBN: 978-952-249-020-9) by Turku School of Economics, Finland. In this dissertation, I locate virtual goods as the latest step in an overall digitalisation of consumption, and examine the reasons behind this ”virtual consumption” through data gathered from some of its primary arenas.
The resulting digitalisation of consumption can potentially have significant implications for the global economy and the ecological sustainability of consumer culture. And unlike information goods (such as music, software and news), virtual goods are rivalrous: one person’s use of a virtual good excludes others from using it.
What are being bought and sold on the virtual goods markets are therefore not data, services or objects, but permissions: the exclusive right to use this feature or that corner of an online environment frequented by thousands of people.
Indeed, Internet-related scholarship typically emphasises the intangible and intellectual nature of online activity, postulating a break with traditional models instead of seeking continuity with them.
New economy, digital economy, prosumers, peer production, long tail and tuángòu are some of the recently developed notions used to describe economy and exchange on the Internet (e.g., Castells 2000; Tapscott & Williams 2006; Anderson 2006; Montlake 2007).
Many of the typical views on virtual consumption that one encounters in the mainstream discussions are summarised in the quotes below.
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The quotes are taken from readers’ comments to an article related to virtual consumption published in the online version of the Finnish newpaper Helsingin Sanomat on March 23, 2008.
Finally, the study of alternative economies and consumption styles such as virtual consumption is made extremely pertinent today by the economic and ecological crises so acutely facing mainstream consumer culture.
The theoretical and methodological approach in this study is based on linking the phenomenon at hand to the long tradition of consumption-related scholarship in the disciplines of sociology and economics.
This study is intended to be the first thorough sociological analysis of this new mode of consumption, which is termed virtual consumption.
The study of virtual consumption is relevant and topical to social scientists for several reasons: Firstly, it seems to be an archetype of the so-called “dematerialisation” of consumption, which has become a prevailing topic in the sociology of consumption.