Mine/not mine: appropriating personal computers in the academic workplace

Deborah Lupton, Greg Noble

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    12 Citations (Scopus)


    Contemporary theoretical perspectives seek to represent consumption as a processual phenomenon, in which there is a mutually constitutive relationship between humans and material artefacts. Strategies of appropriation ' the incorporation of an initially 'alien' object into subjectivity via everyday use ' have been identified as important to these processes. This article addresses the ways in which consumers appropriate a specific mass-produced commodity ' the personal computer ' in the context of the university workplace. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 40 people about their use of personal computers at work, the article focuses on two major strategies of appropriation of these objects: decoration, including adding other artefacts to the outside of the computer and manipulating the appearance of the screen for purely aesthetic purposes, and configuration, involving such activities as arranging the layout of the computer interface and software, and constructing personal files. It is argued that, over time, and despite the initial highly alienating features of computers and a broader ambivalence concerning the incorporation of technologies like computers into notions of the self, the particular capacities of personal computers and their role in everyday working life tend to render them into highly personalized artefacts that may be significantly invested with selfhood.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)5-23
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Sociology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2002


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