Luca Visconti, Bocconi University
John Sherry, University of Notre Dame
Stefania Borghini, Bocconi University
Laurel Anderson, Arizona State University

This research builds on servicescape research but focuses on the neglected area of public/ collective services. In this multi-sited ethnographic research, we explore the ways in which active consumers develop meanings about the consumption of a public good, public space. We document four main ideologies of public space consumption resulting from dwellers’ and street artists’ conflict as well as common intent. We show how public space can be contested as private and commercialized by companies and artists, left untended as a liminal zone, or offered back as a collective good, where sense of belonging and dialogue restore it to a meaningful place. In so doing, we advance the understanding of agency while exploring the virtually neglected realm of public goods consumption, and space in particular. We show how the common nature of this public service stimulates dialectical and dialogical exchanges across stakeholders, and fuels forms of layered co-creation and agency. The most difficult question with public services is who makes the decisions: consumers, public agencies, private “experts”?


This paper has been conditionally accepted at the Journal of Consumer Research.