Jennifer Smith Maguire – Sheffield Business School
Making tastes, making markets: Thinking about the role of cultural intermediaries in building a fine wine consumption culture in China
China is now among the world’s top ten wine consuming countries; however, a fine wine market is not yet secure in China. China’s per capita wine consumption remains very low, and grape wine remains peripheral in the domestic alcoholic beverages market. Neither the cultural legitimacy of wine nor consumers’ taste for wine can be taken for granted. This context creates opportunities for the market-making interventions of a cadre of wine intermediaries, whose expertise in matters of taste and value encompasses both wine and Chinese consumers. Against this backdrop, the paper reports on exploratory, interpretive research involving semi-structured interviews with a small sample of Chinese fine wine intermediaries working in the first-tier city of Shanghai. The data analysis highlights three different roles played by the cultural intermediaries (as proxies, exemplars, and functional democratizers), suggesting how intermediaries contribute to an emerging culture of consumption for fine wine in China. The findings provide insight into intermediaries as a key corps of market actors who serve as both an approximation of, and role model for an emerging consumer body. Research on cultural intermediaries is thus significant for understanding the shape and pathways to future economies: they are an ‘advance guard’ for emerging markets, whose readings and renderings of likely points of attachment between consumers (current and potential) and products (e.g. physical properties, meanings and practices of use) are indicative of potential future market dynamics.
Tim Woolliscroft and Anthony O’Brian – Faculty of Health and Wellbeing
Conceptualising ‘smart business’ through smart city thinking
The smart city concept is frequently associated with innovation and efficiency. Along with the related concepts of: cyber physical systems, collective intelligence, and social computing, it has much to offer the world of business. The digital notion of smartness is however missing from conceptualisations of business in management literature. Whilst related concepts including e-business and industry 4.0 are prevalent, these are quite different. E-business is a much more limited idea that remains focussed on how to sell through the internet. Smart city conceptualisations differ in that they are concerned with interactions and collaborations between people and between people and information technology. Industry 4.0 with its association with the internet of things and cyber physical systems is more closely aligned, however as the name implies it is associated with the manufacturing sector. As much of the world moves away from manufacturing towards service based knowledge economies there appears to be a conceptual gap. The conceptual gap in applying smart city thinking to the service sector is significant as developments in smart city thinking have much that service based companies could learn from. Most directly there are innovations in harnessing collective working and thinking that might enable more efficient business practices. Just as importantly however, there are lessons in how to avoid technological dystopias that may emerge through applications of information technologies. By applying lessons outlined in smart city literature, we will conceptualise models of ‘smart business’ that apply smart city thinking to the service sector.
Aimee Ambrose – Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research
Walking with Energy: overcoming energy ‘invisibility’ through research participation
Our contemporary relationship with energy is characterised by complete dependency and almost complete ignorance. The Walking with Energy project draws on oral history, walking interviews and novel psychological tests to offer an innovative method of (re)engaging the public in debates and decisions regarding energy production and consumption. This paper makes the case for this new approach and discusses the results of a pilot of the method undertaken in the UK in 2018.