Consuming the experience : the effect of experimental stimuli on the contextual self
Davis, Andrew Richard
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This thesis develops identity theory in the context of experiential consumption through the creation of a contextual self. This unique feature of identity advances theory more commonly associated with service-dominant logic, under the proposition that experiences are a consumption activity in their own right which are under-valued when treated as a sub-activity of service consumption. Using a music festival as an experiential example, literature is identified based on the interpretive effects of symbolic interactionism. This highlights the importance of objective, inter-subjective, and subjective stimuli, namely the physical environment, the social environment, and the individual environment respectively. This provides a way of understanding contextual identity and subsequent value creation. This is explored using an in-depth study based on interactionist enquiry as a means to understand the lived experience of the festival-goer in their native habitat. Participant observations and in-field interviews with attendees are conducted using a semi-structured process, and analysed along thematic lines as a way to show the influence of existing theory as well as emerging lines of enquiry. Conclusions identify a 'contextual identity' – a unique identity formed by the persuasive effects of objective and inter-subjective stimuli. However, contextual identity only truly exists in comparison to individuals not attending the experience. During the experience itself, the strength of contextual identity diminishes, acting as no more than a primer for more dominant, deep-rooted identity concepts. The result of this experience-primed identity is the ‘contextual self’, which becomes the dominant behavioural guide during the actual experience. Implications are applicable across a number of contexts and provide not only a better theoretical understanding of identity within the experiential consumption process, but also practical suggestions to improve the consumer's experience.