Sneaker Sorcery: The Personalization, Magic, Enchantment and Technology of RbkCustom
This paper will explore the commodification process of Reebok’s personalized sneakers. These sneakers are unique in two ways:1.They employ an online personalization process by which customers can easily design them—and share their designs with others. 2.They are available to be purchased as virtual shoes in Second Life. Second Life is a platform for communication, commercialization and sociality online. Much like the telephone and the internet when it was introduced, Second Life is primarily populated by early adopters. It has not yet become mainstream, but it heralds a new capability for technologically-aided sociality to match broadband speeds and increased levels of computer literacy across the globe. In my examination of the process, I propose that such clothing exists in an exchange sphere (Kopytoff 1986) that is altogether new and characterized by its liminal context. This liminal exchange sphere is created through a culturally-shaped biography of the shoes in which a common/singular dialectic is employed via computer-mediated personalization of the shoes. This personalization is a type of "technology of enchantment" (Gell 1988) that is an emergent model of effective commercial strategy.
Keywords: Technology, Ecommerce, Personalization, Second Life, Marketing, Material Culture, Online Communities, Liminality, Virtuality, Sociality
PhD Student, Department of Anthropology, Wayne State University