The World of Tomorrow: Technological Change and Market Development
Technological change refers to the ways in which physical objects, practices, and knowledge develop over time. Marketing and consumer research understand technological change and its impact on market structures as processes of diffusion. These processes follow predictable patterns in which innovative technologies with objectively superior capabilities or performance are more likely to diffuse, displacing existing technologies. While this progression from the past to the present remains central in most theories linking technological change and marketplace structures, the role of the future remains under-examined. Recent empirical work in market and consumer research emphasizes the role of the future on how individuals think and act in the present, suggesting that interpretations of the future play an important role in the relationship between technology and marketplace structures. Drawing on the sociological theory of Castoriadis, this thesis examines cultural narratives of future-oriented social imaginaries surrounding a given technology and how these imaginaries come to shape current marketplace activity. Through an ethnographically-informed longitudinal study (2012-2018) of the emerging markets for 3D printing hardware, software, and services, I find market actors making sense of 3D printing through four distinct future-oriented social imaginaries linked with hybrid market mythologies. Rather than only superior technology diffusing through the marketplace, the findings reveal the diffusion of future-oriented social imaginaries, and how this diffusion relates to the ongoing development of market arrangements. I discuss the implications of these findings for studies of market systems, diffusion of innovations, and unintended market change.