Unfixing the fixed function: A phenomenological study of consumers’ usage of products in ways not intended by the companies

Lea Philip Michaelsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The concept of co-creation has received widespread attention. However, a large part of co-creation experiences are left out, namely those concerning consumers changing the function of a product in ways not intended by the manufacturer. This is called: Unfixing the fixed function of products in this thesis. A few studies and papers have been published on the topic. However, none have looked into the experiences held by the consumers. The purpose of this thesis is therefore to shed some light on this topic by investigating how unfixing the fixed function of a product is experienced by the consumers. Specific emphasis is put on how the concept is related to creativity, and which underlying themes characterize the value creation of the consumers when engaging in unfixing the fixed function of products. The experiences are investigated through a phenomenological study, conducting six semi structured in-depth interviews about the experience of unfixing the fixed function of products. The analysis shows that the experience can be divided according to Holbrook’s (1998) typology of consumer value, using four of the eight values; efficiency, play, status, and ethics. These values can be further divided into fourteen themes relating them to the participants’ experiences with unfixing the fixed function. The four dimensions and fourteen themes can all be combined into a number of ways producing different value creating experiences. Thus, by adding more themes to an experience the value creation of that experience will be enhanced. Especially the addition of the two themes differentiation and recognition are seen as value creating to any experience of unfixing the fixed function. Furthermore, the experience of unfixing the fixed function can be seen in relation to creativity when it is the first time the person unfixes the function of that particular product in that exact way. The creative experience is further enhanced when time is dedicated to the experience, a physical change is made to the product, and the new function is seen as sufficiently distant from the original function. The themes of searching, immersion, creation, freedom, differentiation and recognition are especially linked to the concept of creativity and shows how and what value creation occurs when engaging in the creative element of unfixing the fixed function. The findings from this thesis contribute with a new concept within consumer research, insight into the consequences of creativity, knowledge of how consumers can use this in their everyday life, and suggestions for companies to use this for adding value through co-imagination, co-innovation, and choosing the right strategy when dealing with consumers unfixing the fixed function of their products.

EducationsCand.merc.smc Strategic Market Creation, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2012
Number of pages202