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Consuming Hygge at Home: Perception, Representation, Practice

  • Author(s): Bean, Jonathan Yorke
  • Advisor(s): Cranz, Galen
  • et al.

Comparative research on the relationship between everyday spaces of consumption and cultural metaconcepts offers insight into how consumers experience and construct meaning through the use of space. In practice theory, metaconcepts, the "structuring structures" of consumer meaning and emotion, are understood to operate at the individual, group, and cultural level. Consumers engage cultural metaconcepts -- in this case, the Danish concept of hygge and coziness, its typical American translation --!through banal acts, such as making morning coffee, and exceptional consumption, such as remodeling one's home. Likewise, metaconcepts act across social scale. The emotional experience of hygge can be experienced alone or in a group, but the concept is also strongly linked to Danish identity and to the home. Therefore, the ideal of hygge influences the everyday purchases that constitute the majority of middle-class consumption. Through everyday consumption, hygge has a strong relationship to the material arrangement and use of the home. Hygge influences everything from the size and shape of the dining table to the relationship of the living room to the front door. These material arrangements shape both social relationships and consumption, reinforcing cultural ideals and norms. Previous research on hygge, homeyness, and atmosphere, however, has lacked a comparative perspective, making it difficult to identify cultural differences in the metaconcepts that drive much normal, routine, and habitual consumption. From a review of literature from fields including cultural geography, anthropology, sociology, and architecture, I identify seven concepts that typify scholarly approaches to the home. I then conduct a two-part analysis for understanding the intangible, multivalent, and fleeting concepts of hygge and coziness in a sample of seventeen everyday domestic settings near Copenhagen, Denmark and Portland, Oregon. First is a comparative research video ethnographic method designed to invoke wide-ranging discussion and involve participants in the creation of research representations. Second is a historical survey of representations of hygge and coziness in popular media, including the Danish magazine Bo Bedre, the American magazine Sunset, and the book The Not So Big House by American author and architect Sarah Susanka. This research offers a contribution to interdisciplinary theory in marketing research and studies of domestic space along with concrete findings applicable to the marketing of domestic goods, homes, restaurants, bars, and other products and services. It also offers a rapid ethnographic method of use to scholars and market research professionals alike.

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