• Jorge Graca
In this thesis we analyse the relation between use and technological change, exploring a limitation in the Product Life Cycle model. Influenced by the finite potential for technological improvements depicted by the s-curve, that model closes the question of technological limits at an early stage, leaving the analysis of what happens with products after they reach the maturity stage out of its‟ scope.
To address that shortcoming, we recognise that in some occasions those limits are transcended, drawing on two perspectives. First, users acting as agents of technological change, reinterpret “old” technologies, and find new ways of using them for purposes that were not thought of when they were originally designed. Second, technologies do not merely fade away, but continue to be improved and to shape the technological landscape long after their supposed obsolescence, often against newer rivals.
To explore those phenomena, we analysed the home video games industry, whose network-based, standard-driven character leaves many hardware users in the position of “angry orphans”, without any support from both hardware and software manufacturers. They seem affected by the “winner‟s curse”, having overpaid for a product that was discontinued, lost a large share of its value, and apparently became a piece of obsolete technology.
However, some of those users find the “blessings” emerging from the emotional side of video gaming linked with the retrogaming phenomenon, and from the online communities of orphans that appreciate the technical challenge of modifying discontinued (vintage) home video games hardware.
We conducted an empirical study of such users (modders) and communities, comprising qualitative and quantitative research activities combined through the technique of “crystallisation”.
The results show that technological limits are indeed transcended, and that technological change seems a complex process, done through small incremental steps, on an individual learning by doing basis, within a context of information sharing, and constructive support within the communities. This context motivates the modders, concurring to the improvement of their skills, the quality of their projects, and reputation building. Nonetheless, the scope of those technological changes, although relevant from a technical point of view, does not reach the economic relevance of an innovation: the outcomes remain confined to an individual sphere, skipping the logic of the market, and they do not feedback into the innovation processes of companies.
Our findings confirm thus that “old” technologies continue to exist and to be improved long after they reach the maturity and declining stages and their supposed technological limits, and that the users are responsible by the extension of the period in which they are in use and their physical limits.
In face of this evidence, we suggest that the Product Life Cycle literature should allow leeway to recognise that in some cases there is a subsequent phase to the maturity stage, in which products and technologies are still in use, and furthermore being improved, but no longer available on the market.
We also suggest that further research should compare cases of other discontinued technologies, where users act as agents of technological change and others where this does not happen. Such comparative study would capture how general the pattern of technological changes made to discontinued products is, and render a deeper understanding of different dimensions of analysis and characteristics of such products and users.
Publication date1 Jun 2010
Number of pages99
Publishing institutionAalborg University
ID: 32242471