Early in 2020, Finola Kerrigan and Stephen Brown guest-edited a special issue of the Marketing Theory journal composed of short-stories about marketing scholarship.
The call for papers had invited marketing scholars to “take their research and turn it into (1) a compelling work of short fiction, (2) a work that is more captivating than an orthodox academic article, (3) a work that offers something above and beyond the flat, factual findings we’re all familiar with and (4) a work that says something conceptual, something scholarly, something thought-provoking, something with added academic value.”
The result was a compilation of 9 (10?) short stories about topics as diverse as algorithmic decision making, consumption as escapism or marketplace myths. The short story format makes the papers really enjoyable to read. I can also use these stories in my teaching, to bring to life the issues that we talk about in the module, in much more relatable and interesting ways than a “traditional” paper, and in more depth than a news article. For instance, I have since added Mike Molesworth’s “A Heteronomous Consumer Romance” to my AI and Marketing syllabus.
Molesworth’s paper is a really clever illustration of the consequences of algorithmic decision making for consumers and for marketers. On the consumer side, it illustrates the ubiquity of application of algorithmic decision making in our daily lives, from shopping, to entertainment, insurance and a building’s ambiance. It also shows how AI optimises for very specific goals at the expense of others, and, particularly, how it is dominated by brands and supportive of their commercial interests (not ours, as consumers). Moreover, it shows how there is more friction in resisting the AI than in “going with it”, which leads us to accept algorithmic decision making in areas and instances where, rationally, we wouldn’t accept it (much like it is much harder to opt out of aggressive data collection than just going along with every single “request” for permission to collect our data). On the marketers’ side, it shows the extent to which the nature of marketing has changed, becoming more and more automated and data driven. And how the many granular, automated decisions make it so difficult for marketers to explain how or why specific personalisation decisions (e.g., product recommendations) have been made.
In addition to the special issue, Finola Kerrigan and Jack Coffin have now produced a podcast consisting of dramatisations of the short stories, and discussions about each story between the two producers, the author and an invited expert. It’s called “Tell me a a story“. I very much enjoy listening to the dramatisations and the discussions: They take me into really interesting directions, and they make connections between each paper’s focus and other areas that are simply too difficult to see when we are simply reading a paper on our own or checking for citations.
I was invited to join one such discussion: namely, the discussion about Molesworth’s paper (the one about algorithmic decision making). I really enjoyed joining this discussion: It was very interesting to learn about Mike’s process and motivation, as well as discuss the many interesting issues raised by Mike’s paper. [Thank you Finola and Jack for inviting me].
Do listen to the podcast and check the special issue (the papers are available in open access). It will make for a different – and very enjoyable – way to “consume” market scholarly research.
Which story captured your attention?