“Mining the Secret Life of Objects” by Prof. Donna L. Hoffman
Professor Donna L. Hoffman
Louis Rosenfeld Distinguished Scholar and Professor of Marketing
Co-Director, The Center for the Connected Consumer
George Washington University School of Business
The consumer IoT has the potential to revolutionize consumer experience because consumers can actively interact with smart objects. In order to successfully interact with smart objects, e.g. trusting them to make decisions on our behalf, it is imperative that we understand how they experience the world. An obvious process for understanding object experience is human-centered anthropomorphism. Yet, anthropomorphizing smart objects presents a number of obstacles to understanding how they are likely to impact the world going forward. We argue that understanding object experience should be from the perspective of the object. We develop an approach based on assemblage theory to interpreting consumers’ interactions with smart objects. Our approach involves a trio of “alien phenomenology” tools including ontography, metaphorism, and carpentry that involve both qualitative and computational analyses to render object experience accessible. Our approach can provide marketers with expanded opportunities to improve product design and development efforts and support better marketing communication programs that communicate enriched value to consumers. More broadly, we believe our approach can lead to a better understanding of smart objects as AI becomes ubiquitous.