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A Sociology of Product Testing and Reviewing

Online user reviews – such as those you find on Amazon.com – have revolutionized the way we acquire information about products. Today, we have access to far more product information than we have had access to before. Many commentators therefore argue that user reviews have meant that we today make far more informed and, hence, better purchasing decisions than ever before.
User reviews have also attracted criticism, however. They have for example been criticized for outcompeting other, more reliable sources of information, such as product reviews based on the scientific testing of products. In Denmark, the reviews of the Danish Consumer Council THINK are an example of such reviews. The critics point out that expert, science-based reviews and user reviews often reach divergent product assessments, even when they assess the same products. This means that what source of information we put our trust in makes a difference. If the critics are right that user reviews are less reliable than the reviews of THINK and at the same time outcompete such reviews, then user reviews have weakened our ability to choose the ‘best’ product.
So what does the rise of user reviews really mean for purchasing decisions? To answer this question, we have to look at how user reviews and expert reviews create product information. How is the data on which the two types of product reviews are based collected? What counts as valid data? And how are these data turned into a product assessment? It is towards these questions my PhD project turns. The project thereby seeks to help us understand what benefits and downsides result from basing our purchasing decisions on one type of product review over the other.
Mikkel Nøjgaard

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Sidst opdateret: 05.10.2021