UNDERSTANDING POSSESSION ATTACHMENT IN THE ERA OF THE INTERNET OF THINGS: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF THE NATURE, MOTIVATION AND STRENGTH OF ATTACHMENT TO MATERIAL OBJECTS VERSUS META OBJECTS
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Attachment to possessions is commonly understood as a close association that an individual perceives between him/herself and a specific object in his/her possession. Attachment objects play an important role in people's life beyond their utility. They are used to define individual and group identity, display affiliation to or differentiation from others, express social status and life style, establish political and social order, influence interpersonal relationship and enable self-development to name a few. Previous research in this field has been mainly focused on the different dimensions of attachment concept (such as attachment motivation) and how owners' demographic differences impact the attachment bond. Despite the volume of research in this field there is a lack of understanding about the influence that objects have on attachment bond. Particularly the effect of the new class of technology devices that are emerging on the grounds of the Internet of Things (IoT) is not well investigated. Today as more and more objects connect to the internet it is important to acknowledge their uniqueness and be proactive in understanding them as forces of change in our life. This study first hypothesizes that, possession attachment is influenced by the attachment object's characteristics and second, there are noticeable differences between connected objects (C-Things) and not-connected material objects (Things) in terms of possession attachment. To test the research hypotheses a mixed-method approach was adopted to be able to collect, analyze, cross verify and report findings. This research approach included a qualitative exploratory interview followed by a quantitative survey that was administered online. The results of this study provide a rich picture of possession attachment in great details. Variety of aspects related to the concept of possession attachment are identified, operationalized and measured including, time, value to the user, love and loss emotions, replaceability and attachment behavior. In addition to providing a phenomenological understanding of possession attachment, the results demonstrate salient differences between Things and Connected Things in many of the identified aspects and therefore support the hypotheses of this research.