Play It Again, Sam...Again!

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Back in May of this year I wrote about new research from American University that aims to understand why we reconsume content. As I admitted in the post, I shamelessly put songs on repeat, willingly sit through movies I’ve seen a dozen times and admit to such habits freely.

I was reminded of my penchant for reconsumption when a friend mentioned the movie “Twister,” a film my sisters and I rented multiple times as kids. Partly because the local library in New Salem, Mass - with a population of less than 1,000 - offered a limited selection. There are only so many Shirley Temple movies you can watch before “Good Ship Lollipop” becomes permanently ingrained in the brain. But, we also just couldn’t get enough of “the dark side of nature”…and Bill Paxton.

All of this reminded me that the study was published in full in the Journal of Consumer Research this August, offering more insight into my reconsumptive habits.

One thing authors Cristel Russell and Sidney J. Levy discovered is that “some volitional reconsumption experiences are more oriented toward the past, others more toward the future.” Basically, sometimes we reconsume books and movies, or revisit places, in order to recreate a past experience and feel what we felt then. Other times, we reconsume in order to rewrite the past, or “start anew.”

"Unlike regressive reconsumption, progressive reconsumption is open to the possibility of change and motivated by the desire to affirm, confirm, or disconfirm an impression left by previous experiences,” Russell and Levy write.

My desire to watch “Twister” again is certainly regressive. Every time I do, I’m catapulted back to my childhood. My reconsumption is driven by nostalgia, and the memory of being curled up on the couch with my sisters, lights off, imagining the wind swirling about outside. It unearths a feeling of security and comfort.

In addition to being regressive or progressive, Russell and Levy also found that reconsumption is either reconstructive or relational.

“Reconstructive consumption is motivated by a desire to refresh or reconstruct one’s memory of the object experienced,” they write, whereas “relational reconsumption experiences are focused on how they affect one’s relationships with other people, the human context that anchors reconsumption.”

It has been several years since I last watched “Twister.” And while I can visualize the storm chasers careening through the countryside, purposefully putting themselves in the path of the storm, I’m not certain exactly what their vehicle looks like. And I can picture Helen Hunt, but the actress that plays Paxton’s girlfriend appears as a foggy image in my mind. When I watch it again, as I plan to soon, I will be able to reconstruct the elements that have slowly eroded over time.

According to the study, “the satisfaction of the reconstructive reconsumption experience thus lies in the pleasure of rediscovering and restoring in memory the object that was partially forgotten. This is promoted by the nature of human memory as not merely a reproduction of past experience but rather a complex reconstruction by which we give meaning to our experiences, based both on what we knew before the experience transpired and what we learned afterward.”

It is the meaning I’ve attached to “Twister,” and Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” that ensure I will always be a chronic regressive, reconstructive reconsumer…and I’m perfectly fine with that. 

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