Translating Evolving Technology Use into User Stories: Technology Life Narratives of Consumer Technology Use

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People acquire and buy technology in stores or online in the same way as any other consumer product, so understanding the user as a consumer of technology is essential. In this study, we investigate how the use of ubiquitous consumer technology evolves over time and suggest a theoretical account of how use evolves into different patterns of embodiment. Empirically, we followed 15 consumers of smartphones during a 6‐month field study and collected data via interviews, survey, and focus groups. Analytically, we view the user as a consumer of technology and develop three technology life narratives as patterns of embodiment. As a theoretical lens, we draw upon the theory of consumption values and approached use as a dynamic consumption process in which different values drive use over time. We found three distinct patterns of embodiment: that of conditionalists, aesthetic socialites, and functional enthusiasts. Conditionalists are pragmatic and use technology only when the device fulfils pre‐existing needs and the preferred alternative is unavailable. Aesthetic socialites use the technology as a fashion accessory and to manage their personal relationships. Functional enthusiasts are gadget lovers whose tinkering for the sake of exploration leads them to discover new needs that the technology can fulfil. Besides the three patterns of embodiment, we discovered a type of use that we argue falls outside of the values described in the theory of consumption values. This is the use of technology without any identifiable purpose other than just using the technology, which is driven by expositional value.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInformation Systems Journal
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1178-1200
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

Published online: 5. December 2018


  • Consumer technology
  • Embodiment
  • Technology life narratives
  • Technology use
  • Theory of consumption values

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