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The Handbook of Global Science, Technology, and Innovation by Andrea Filippetti, Daniele Archibugi

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Chapter 4Soft Innovation and Changes in Product Aesthetics: An Omitted Dimension in Economic Analyses of Innovation Activities

Paul Stoneman

Introduction

The purpose of this contribution is to draw attention to a class of innovative activities primarily concerned with changes of an aesthetic1 nature or in intellectual appeal, that has largely been ignored in the study of innovation prevalent in economics. This is not to downplay the extent and importance of technological innovations, in fact aesthetic and related innovations may rely upon technological innovations, but rather to indicate that the study of technological changes provides an incomplete picture of the totality of innovative activity. The inclusion of aesthetic and similar innovations means that not only is innovation more widespread than previously considered but may also take different forms than previously considered. This is not a completely new argument: Bianchi and Bortolotti (1996) draw attention to what they label “formal innovation.” which is innovation that changes product form without any necessary changes in product function. They consider that the new form “exalts the aesthetic or symbolic content of the product.” Postrel (2004) argues that aesthetics is an increasingly important element of our society and people are concerned not only with function but also with how things look and feel. Marzal and Esparza (2007) argue that there are a number of industries that experience aesthetic innovations when ...

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