The Future with Powerful Consumers: A Case Study of Kickstarter

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 12:45 PM
Room: 419
Oral Presentation
Penn PANTUMSINCHAI , Sociology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI
In our technologically advanced modern age, the power of production has shifted from the producers to the consumers. Everyday consumers are taking a more proactive role in the way they buy, use, and mold products to their needs and purposes. These new-age consumers are changing the way corporations produce products and are forcing corporations to acknowledge the wisdom, knowledge, and creativity that consumers have to offer. As part of this developing phenomenon, crowdsourcing has become a new practice of corporations and small-time producers. Crowdsourcing is the idea of soliciting contributions (be it money, ideas, or labor) from a large group of people (such as a virtual community). Kickstarter is an American-based, private for-profit company founded in 2009 dubbed “the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects” (http://www.kickstarter.com/). A platform in which producers of any kind (films, games, music, art, technology) can ask donations for creative projects, Kickstarter puts the power in the consumers’ hands. People have the option to donate as much money as they want to the over 100,000 projects open for funding. The design seems simple, yet it is rife with controversy. Kickstarter does not provide any regulation in terms of completing the projects and delivering to the consumers. Unsurprisingly, there have been numerous projects that have been funded but not finished and delivered to the ‘backers’ (i.e. funders). By analyzing the Kickstarter community through Consumer Culture Theory, particularly focusing on over funded projects that have not been completed, the sociological expectations and desires of the backers are understood. As new-age consumers supporting local businesses or individual creators, they have a desire to have creative and funding control over the production process. Conversely, the goals of the producers are also analyzed to provide a larger picture on the effectiveness of a possible future of consumer-sponsored production.