Consumer Work and Agency in the Analog Revival

Michael B. Beverland*, Karen V. Fernandez, Giana M. Eckhardt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Why do consumers choose difficult analog technologies over their labor-saving digital counterparts? Through ethnographic investigations of three once defunct analog technologies that have experienced a resurgence (vinyl music, film photography and analog synthesizers), we explore how the act of consumer work enables consumers to experience shifting dimensions of agency. We utilize the theoretical lens of serious leisure to introduce a four-stage work process (novice, apprentice, craft and design) in which the experience of agency is dependent on the shifting relations between user, object, and context. The four stages are cumulative and conjunctive, representing the development of skills towards mastery while also being connected via three transition mechanisms (contextualization, schematization, and hypothesization) that address agency–alienation tensions. The transition through these mechanisms is necessary to sustain emotional engagement in consumer work. Our contribution lies in demonstrating the myriad of ways in which consumer work as serious leisure generates different experiences of agency and alienation and the ways in which consumers can sustain engagement in their work.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberucae003
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Number of pages67
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Accepted manuscript published online:19 January 2024


  • Consumer work
  • Consumer agency
  • Consumer alienation
  • Analog revival

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