Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration

First Advisor

Dr. A. Fuat Firat

Second Advisor

Dr. Reto Felix

Third Advisor

Dr. Mohammadali Zolfagharian


Much research has been concerned with what constitute necessities and how they are related to pertinent concepts, such as needs, wants, desires, and luxuries (Belk, Ger, and Askegaard 2003; Duncan 2002; Fraser 1998, Hoyer and MacInnis 2004; Kerin, Hartley and Rudelius 2004; Sheth and Mittal 2004). Using thing-focused approaches, earlier studies are primarily concerned with classification schemes using dichotomies such as need-want and necessity-luxury. Studies that employ a human-focused perspective challenge these divisions and argue that necessities cannot be studied without considering the social and historical contexts (e.g., Buttle 1989; Firat 1987). Notwithstanding the important contributions that these studies have made, they have often explored necessities and necessitation primarily from the perspective of a dominant human subject (i.e., the consumer), where things (i.e., products) primarily serve as vehicles for consumer meaning.

The contribution of this research is two-fold. First, a macro narrative that identifies five stages of smartphone necessitation in news consumption is derived from a narrative analysis of consumer texts, in order to better understand how consumers experience product necessitation. These stages are familiarization, transformation, memorialization, (re)integration and reconstruction, and solidification. Necessitation is achieved when consumers come to feel that they cannot live without this product.

Second, entanglement theory (Hodder 2012) with its accentuation of dependences is employed. Hodder (2012) argues against the symmetrical nature of relations, suggesting that they are often asymmetrical. This observation translates into the concept of entanglement, which is “the dialectic of dependence and dependency between humans and things” (Hodder 2012, p. 89). Dependence occurs when the use of things is something enabling, while dependency is to be understood as occurring when their use imposes a constraint on humans (Hodder 2012).Tracing the historical increase of entanglements of news consumption leading to the necessitation of the smartphone, this study finds that necessitation emerges as a result of numerous small changes within entanglements over time, which, in turn, produce unexpected problems that need fixing. The solutions further increase entanglements and lead humans and things down the pathway of product necessitation. As the affordances of a product are gradually exploited, they fully entangle with a wide range of humans and things. Eventually a level of entanglements is reached that makes it difficult and expensive to turn back or disentangle, making the product come to be near-universally perceived as necessary.


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