Dr Stine Grodal, Boston University Questrom School of Business

Aesthetics play an important role in the success of technology products. Scholars have theorised about how the aesthetics of technology products shift over the course of the technology lifecycle. These scholars posit that aesthetics follow a reverse pattern of the technology lifecycle with minimal novelty during the era of ferment, but that producers engage in aesthetic innovation when the technology matures to differentiate their products in the market. We extend this theory through an inductive examination of technological and aesthetic innovations in the hearing aid industry over the 70-year period 1945-2015. We identify that aesthetic innovation tends to occur within the confinement of a dominant aesthetic – that is an aesthetic manifestation, which is present in the majority of products during that lifecycle. In contrast to existing theory, we find that the innovations in aesthetics that eventually drive forth a new dominant aesthetic tend to be launched in during the era of ferment. We find that categorical aspirations – aiming for the product to take on the meaning of other product categories – are a core driver of aesthetic innovation. Over the course of the technology lifecycle, producers begin to question the dominant aesthetics and begin to draw analogies to other categories. Through analogies to other categories, producers form aspirations to have their products attain the same meanings as the categories aspired to. However, these new categorical aspirations do not immediately spur aesthetic innovations challenging the dominant aesthetic – rather they remain latent. The latent categorical aspirations do not lead to experimentation with a new aesthetic manifestation until a new era of technological ferment jolts the existing dominant aesthetic. As technological designs destabilise, it frees up producers to experiment with the accumulated latent categorical aspirations. After a period of aesthetic experimentation, the industry settles into a new dominant aesthetic, which undergoes minor aesthetic elaborations as the technology matures.

Speaker bio

Stine Grodal is an Associate Professor at Boston University Questrom School of Business. She received her PhD from Stanford University. Her work has received numerous awards and has been published across a variety of journals among others Administrative Science Quarterly, American Sociological Review and Organization Science. Her research focuses on the emergence and evolution of markets, industries and organisational fields with a specific focus on the role categories and their associated labels play in this process. In particular, her work explores the strategic actions that market participants take to shape and exploit categorical structures.

Address

Trumpington St
Cambridge
CambridgeshireCB2 1AG
United Kingdom

Date & time

Date: 1 May 2018
Start Time: 11:00
End Time: 12:30

Audience

Open to: Members of the University of Cambridge

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Event location


Trumpington St
Cambridge
CambridgeshireCB2 1AG
United Kingdom

Event timings

Date: 1 May 2018
Start Time: 11:00
End Time: 12:30