The philosopher in the business school

Alladi Venkatesh. Source: Paul Merage School of Business.

One of the supplest minds I’ve yet encountered in my cultural research is Alladi Venkatesh (not to be confused with his more famous name-sake, the sociologist Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh, author of the justly celebrated Gang Leader for a Day). Venkatesh’s research ranges across many of the fields I blog about here, including cultural economics, cultural studies, aesthetics and even semiotics. His breadth of reading is constantly surprising, typically bringing insights from many different academic traditions to bear on the questions he researches.

And yet he’s not a philosopher or cultural sociologist. He’s a Professor of Marketing at the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine. He’s also Associate Director of CRITO – the Center for Research on Information Technology in Organizations – and the principal investigator of Project Noah. As his bio records, his research focus is on the impact of new media and information technologies on consumers/households. But that doesn’;’t begin to scratch the surface of his work, which pokes its nose into all sorts of fascinating areas.

Today we’re going to take a look at one of Venkatesh’s recent publications in the journal Marketing Theory. Entitled “Arts and aesthetics: Marketing and cultural production”, and co-authored with Laurie Meamber, it’s nothing less than a wide-ranging review of the literature in many of the fields we cover in this blog – all from the perspective of marketing.

As the paper’s introduction explains,

The purpose of this article is to discuss the notion of cultural production within the context of marketing. The position taken is that aesthetic meanings associated with cultural practices are related to the way in which individuals and organizations negotiate commerce and consumer culture. The main contribution of the research is to enlarge our understanding of the cultural production processes as they pertain to marketing and consumption of aesthetics. In this context, we also examine how emerging developments in postmodern aesthetics and posthumanism have augmented new ways of thinking about related issues.

The broad research question underlying the article is: Is it possible to view marketing as providing both a context and an institutional framework for the cultural production system in the contemporary postmodern world? If so, what does it entail in terms of our conceptualization of the elements of the cultural production system and their specific relationship to the institution of marketing?
Specifically, the following research questions will be addressed:
1. What is cultural production and who are the actors involved in it?
2. What are the current approaches within the field of marketing for the study of the cultural production system?
3. What are the significant developments in the area of cultural production that marketing should be concerned with in considering cultural products?
4. What is the role of aesthetics in the cultural production processes?
5. How do the new epistemologies based on postmodernism and posthumanism influence the cultural production processes?
6. What, finally, are the implications of the cultural production processes for individuals, organizations, and consumer culture?
The paper lives up to all of these aims, and in the process delivers a tour-de-force introduction to this fascinating intersection of fields. Recommended.
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One thought on “The philosopher in the business school

  1. Hi Ben — Sorry to take so long checking my RSS feeds. Just thought I would mention that I visited Alladi Venkatesh in Orange County in October 2003 on my way through to the Internet Research conference in Toronto. He’d invited me for a conference on Home IT earlier in the year but I couldn’t go. Sounds like he’s doing interesting work these days, perhaps I should re-establish contact, it’s been a while since I was in touch with him. — Elaine

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