Changing models of ownership

Rich Radka
Abby Margolis

Relationships between people and products are central to the EPIC community. The last two decades of design ethnography have focused on the product experience to make contextual recommendations on how products might be positioned, designed, and made available. Yet, underlying this focus are two assumptions. First, that when people really want something, they buy it. Second, that people buy products to keep them, often for as long as possible. Ethnography has infrequently asked how people lose interest in products they own, what they do with them when they lose interest, or what happens to products that no longer sustain important forms of symbolic value such as pride or status. This paper, based on global research across multiple businesses, proposes that the nature of ownership is changing. It examines how people are rethinking their relationships to products and the ways in which new businesses are surfacing to operate within these shifting ideas of ownership. We will discuss the research content in addition to how and why these new business models are able to capture value.