Knowledge consumer or consumer knowledge?

I am an online consumer.

Online consumerism could be defined as the actions of providing or acquiring goods and services in the digital world. I have never really considered myself much of an online shopper, but I have come to rely on the Internet for many types of transactions in which I provide or acquire any number of things:  paying bills, ordering take-out, purchasing event tickets, downloading music…

While I may be a consumer in the online world, my brain was in overload this week, as I realized how much I really don’t know about online consumerism.

I have no experience or (even full understanding) of virtual online communities such as Second Life, where participants create virtual identities and purchase virtual goods. Until this week, my understanding of the term e-inclusion would not have included knowledge of how companies such as HP seek to “…increase consumption of ICT among the worlds poor and the institutions serving them.” (Schwittay, 2012, p.53).  Nor had I really ever stopped to consider how organizations that use social media to connect with customers need employees that can manage and maintain the company’s image in these online environments. I have never even heard of Groupon or Living Social, websites that sites that provide daily deals for to consumers of local businesses. Perhaps most embarrassingly, I did not know that the ‘s’ in ‘https’ stood for secure.  How is it that I never learned such an important component to online consumerism?

Without any of this knowledge, I have been able to engage successfully as a digital consumer. Yet my learning experiences with this week have resonated with me the importance of providing students with the knowledge and tools to become savvy online consumers and contributors to the digital world.  We cannot assume that participation alone will guarantee sufficient knowledge.  We must teach them how to communicate and navigate safely and successfully in a variety of digital consumer contexts.

References:
Hughes, S., & Beukes, C. (2012). Growth And Implications Of Social E-Commerce And Group Buying Daily Deal Sites: The Case Of Groupon And Livingsocial. International Business & Economics Research Journal, 11(8), 921-934.
Koles, B., & Nagy, P. (2012). Virtual Customers behind Avatars: The Relationship between Virtual Identity and Virtual Consumption in Second Life. Journal Of Theoretical & Applied Electronic Commerce Research, 7(2), 87-105.
McEachern, R. W. (2011). Experiencing a Social Network in an Organizational Context: The Facebook Internship. Business Communication Quarterly, 74(4), 486-493.
Schwittay, A. (2012). Incorporated Citizens: Multinational High-Tech Companies and the BoP. Information Technologies & International Development, 8(1), 43-56.
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4 Responses to Knowledge consumer or consumer knowledge?

  1. Skye says:

    Kim, I completely relate to your feelings of ignorance relating to on-line consumerism. There was so much more encompassed within this term than I realized and as it turns out, all of the individuals I spoke to about it as well (about 6 people between the ages of 25 and 37) so there is absolutely no need for embarrassment! Education becomes something far more necessary than the public realize and yet there is little or no incentive for them to pursue the information. How can we motivate others to seek digital information/education when we aren’t even aware of an entity’s online existence?

    Every time I begin a new job, my new employer will feed me copious amounts of information, loaded with industry jargon, and then ask, “do you have any questions?” The presumption that I would know what questions to ask when I am unfamiliar with their technology, software systems, and presentation technology always confused me. I may have been shown how to locate and navigate the corporate intranet but I’m much too overwhelmed with new information to begin applying my knowledge to critically think about everything enough to come up with questions. Perhaps they are just being polite in these circumstances but the same can be correlated with all the course information we are discovering now. Each new discovery (be it new terminology, new technology, new articles, new ideas being discussed in each paragraph within an article) needs to be studied, information analysed and processed before we can begin to question the information critically. In the McEachern (2010) article, Robert compares the number of English Majors that possessed a Facebook account with the number of teachers that possessed an account and found that while every student had one, very few teachers did (p. 489). Why do you think this is? In conversations with many teachers and parents alike, they chose not to participate in online life-styles because they value their privacy. Is it reasonable to expect these non-participants/infrequent participants to know about online consumerism? Do you think it makes a difference if they know about it or not? Do you think there choice to avoid participating in most online consumerism is wise or foolish?
    I appreciate your honesty and ability to allow yourself to be vulnerable with us Kim! In the end it empowers us all! 🙂
    Skye

    Reference:
    McEachern, R. W. (2011). Experiencing a Social Network in an Organizational Context: The Facebook Internship. Business Communication Quarterly, 74(4), 486-493.

  2. kelasher says:

    Thanks for you reply, Skye, and for your kind support!

    I am not sure if the choice not to participate in online consumerism or even social media is necessarily wise or foolish. Perhaps it is simply a choice related to one’s own personal interests. I generally don’t shop online because it is not my preference, but will certainly do so if it meets my needs. Similarly, I have a Facebook account, but do not choose to post very often, only as a way to connect more easily with distant friends and relatives. I have no knowledge of the stock market – and don’t have any real need or interest in gaining such knowledge. But if a situation were to arise in which I did require an understanding of the stock market, I would be able to learn what I needed through any number of channels. Are we wrong in assuming that online consumerism has the same level of relevance for everyone? Perhaps not knowing about online consumerism may simply be a result of not needing the information. Relevance is an important factor for learning. Just ask my math students whose attitudes about large numbers shift dramatically when we add high scores in their favourite video game to the discussion. Perhaps we need to step back from thinking about all the things we as teachers and parents need to do to prepare our students for digital citizenship, and focus on guiding them through the teachable moments that arise out of relevance.

  3. kpunit says:

    Hi Kim,
    I do agree that there is so much in terms of an online environment that one can never say; I just about know it all. The dynamic nature and the rate at which things move and work is overwhelming at times. As you point out, “We must teach them [students] how to communicate and navigate safely and successfully in a variety of digital consumer contexts” is a sentiment that every adult yearns yet is not totally sure about. But is it possible to teach something that is ever-involving or is it rather practical to provide tools that would help students adapt to changes that help them figure out things on their own? Interestingly McEachern (2012, p. 491) pointed out that, “…an online image can be a hard thing to control…” As teachers it might be easier to tell and make students aware about copyright infringement and dos and don’ts, but what happens when the online virtual world starts affecting students at a psychological level affecting their self esteem and popularity in social circles. Till what extend can teachers and parents go and involve themselves to help and protect young digital citizens? You point out, “Without any of this knowledge, I have been able to engage successfully as a digital consumer.” This very thought resonates with my sensibilities of being an online consumer. As much as I like to take informed decisions, I will always have to be self motivated and responsible to act as a ‘savvy’ online consumer. Koles & Nagy (2012) stress, “…online consumer behavior is extremely dynamic, and continues to be shaped as additional technological advancements and further information become available, and as the social environment continues to adapt to current rapid changes.” (p. 91). In my understanding, consumer behavior is directly correlated to consumption be it in real or virtual worlds. Business models tend to map real life settings in virtual worlds in order to create a zone that helps escape or suspend reality for the time the individual in involved in a particular activity. How are teachers and parents going to help students understand and differentiate deep relationship and superficial acquaintances in the bigger scope of overlapping real and virtual identities?

    References:

    Koles, B., & Nagy, P. (2012). Virtual Customers behind Avatars: The Relationship between Virtual Identity and Virtual Consumption in Second Life. Journal Of Theoretical & Applied Electronic Commerce Research, 7(2), 87-105.

    McEachern, R. W. (2011). Experiencing a Social Network in an Organizational Context: The Facebook Internship. Business Communication Quarterly, 74(4), 486-493.

  4. caroleware says:

    Lots of food for thought here Kim! You said, ” Without any of this knowledge, I have been able to engage successfully as a digital consumer.” I often think similarly around the whole notion of technology and computers. Look at my parents, they did not grow up with computers, but are very capable users of office, navigating the web, skype, etc. Even I did not have computers readily available in school! Yet here I am managing to maneuver my way through an online masters course. Is it really the specific skills we need to teach our students or is it still the importance of making good decisions, critically thinking about things, etc that will make our students successful in the future?

    I think many of the skills around being a safe and careful consumer in the digital world should be modeled and taught by parents. As the need arises, teachers will inevitably teach skills around this topic as well.

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