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Would you refrain from buying a sweater if you could buy one for your avatar instead? In a recently newly published article, Matthias Lehner, Jessika Richer and Oksana Mont at Lund University explore the impact of digitalization on sustainable consumption.

In a time where our digital presence is on the rise, in everything from traditional PC games to social VR environments where we interact with other people, the digital avatars that represent us are gaining importance.

Digital consumption could reduce physical desires
To express our personalities and status, we buy digital clothes, cars and other items for actual money in these games. The researchers at Lund University propose that this form of digital consumption could, to a certain degree, replace physical consumption. Instead of shopping trendy clothes in real life, one could potentially be equally or more satisfied with buying digital clothes for their avatar. Moreover, physical experiences, such as concerts and trips, have the potential to be shifted to virtual experiences that may be more sustainable than their physical counterparts.

Significant risks”
VR and other forms of digital presence can contribute to sustainable consumption, but the researchers mention that there is a lack of research on how digital consumption affects our consumption patterns. For example, there’s a significant risk that it does not replace physical consumption but adds digital consumption, which could potentially reinforce people’s desires to consume physically.
They also emphasize the importance of freedom in the digital world, and of preventing the profit-driven companies from controlling all platforms.

– Digitalization is a powerful tool that could make the transition towards sustainability both easier and quicker. However, unless it is regulated,there are equal risks that it is used to drive economic development towards greater growth and consumption, says Matthias Lehner.

Julia Peltola

Read the entire article in “the Future of Consumption” here. 

Matthias Lehner, researcher at Lund University
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