A breakthrough approach for the study of innovations that combines Actor Network Theory and Tribal Consumption: The case of the 3D printer and the Third Industrial Revolution

Barbara Jiménez Fuentes & Virginia Cimino

Student thesis: Master thesis


The aim of this thesis is to explore how the network formation process supports an innovation through its life, from invention to adoption and adaption by consumers. In order to offer a novel and enriched tool for the study of innovations, we propose to merge the Actor Network Theory, from the network process perspective of Innovation Management, with the Tribal Marketing Literature, derived from the Consumption Studies. Our intention is to create a framework that combines the ANT instructions to detect ‘how’ a network emerges, and the Tribal Consumption theories to understand ‘why’ actors become part of such network. We apply the new framework to a single case study in order to analyse the invention, transformation and diffusion of 3D printing technology. We consider particularly interesting its democratizing characteristics and the roles of multiple actors and communities in fostering its evolution. The bridge between the two pillars in the case study analysis helps to shed a light on the role that communities have in the development of an innovation. Our aim is to add to the analysis the focus on ‘why’ actors enrol in a certain network, which takes the shape of a new term that we propose to include in the ANT Literature, what we call the ‘leitmotiv’. With this definition we refer to all the reasons and motivations that play a significant part in the recruitment of actors, and therefore are important to understand how a network has formed. Lastly, according to the results of the research on 3D printers, we will suggest implications for the following areas of study: Actor Network Theory, Innovation Management, Consumption Studies, and Marketing Theory.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2013
Number of pages283