The aim of this dissertation is to study the ways in which new products gain their distinct identity, or their individuation—i.e., the process of change from an 'imitator' to an 'independent product'. Although this process occurs with regard to all innovations, it has not been problematized as a theme in its own right. The dissertation explores this topic through a case study of the probiotic Gefilus innovation in Finland during the period from 1987 to 1997. The research performed in this dissertation is qualitative. The dissertation provides a cognitive and pragmatic account of the ways in which new products gain their distinct identity among consumers. It thereby provides a complementary perspective on existing research on product identity formation. Individuation forms a part of the larger process of domestication, or the active process of making an unfamiliar new object one's own that the consumer is assumed to perform when consuming goods. Recently, consumer research has been enriched by socio-cognitive explorations from the tradition of science and technology studies (STS). The dissertation continues this line of socio-cognitive research by inquiring into the more specific ways in which both the intended and real a) object and b) image of such new and unfamiliar products are shaped during the process of individuation. The main analytical tool in this inquiry is the framework of conceptual blending. To this cognitive exploration, the dissertation also adds a pragmatic and organizational line of inquiry. In particular, it suggests that certain ways of organizing collaboration across knowledge borders are particularly well suited for addressing challenges related to the individuation of new products, and that such pragmatic and organizational aspects therefore also need to be taken into consideration. The key finding of the dissertation is that the individuation process of the probiotic Gefilus innovation involves the introduction of hierarchy, i.e., a distinction between first-order and second-order imitation. At the first level, the Gefilus innovation imitated other products of the same kind, such as yoghurt and cultured buttermilk. At the second level, however, it imitated other products belonging to the category of functional foods, such as the cholesterol-lowering margarine Benecol. The case study shows that this introduction of hierarchy occurred as a response to an impossible situation of institutional contradiction or 'torque', and that it represents a creative, as opposed to destructive, way of exiting such situations. The case study also shows that the introduction of hierarchy forms a central part of the explanation of the unfolding of the Gefilus domestication process.
|Julkaisun otsikon käännös||A cognitive and pragmatic account of innovation: domesticating the probiotic Gefilus in Finland|
|Tila||Julkaistu - 2011|
|OKM-julkaisutyyppi||G5 Tohtorinväitöskirja (artikkeli)|