Human-to-nonhuman value co-creation and resource integration: parasocial actors in a service ecosystem

Mikael Gidhagen, Anu Helkkula, Helge Löbler, Julia Jonas, David Sörhammar, Bård Tronvoll

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review


Purpose - In service research, focus has traditionally been on encounters involving human actors. However, in the contemporary marketing context, value is to an increasing rate cocreated in human-to-nonhuman interactions. For example, customers create value through interacting and integrating resources with self-service technology, but also with applications such as virtual agents (e.g. IKEA’s now retired “Anna”, “Alex” of United Airlines, or the Chinese chatbot ”XiaoIce”).

Interaction between human and nonhuman entities has been discussed in information systems literature (e.g. Neff and Nagy 2016; Cecez-Kecmanovic et al. 2014; Stafford et al. 2014; Davenport 2013), where technology may assume human-like traits. In consumer behavior research, self-service technology has been discussed from an anthropomorphic perspective (e.g. Fan, Wu and Mattila 2015; Keeling, McGoldrick and Beatty, 2010). In addition, customers’ experiences of interacting with mediated entities, like personas in TV-shows, has been widely discussed in media and communications literature, as parasocial interaction (e.g. Horton and Wohl 1956; Houlberg 1984; Giles 2002; Stern et al. 2007).

While non-human actors have been studied, the aspect of nonhuman actors experienced as human-like and social in value co-creation and resource integration has received relatively little attention in service marketing research (cf. Labrecque, 2014; Löbler and Raschpichler 2009; Ballantine and Martin 2005; Gummesson 2004). To address this gap, the purpose of this paper is to present a framework for analysing resource integration and value co-creation between human and nonhuman actors, specifically addressing customers experiencing nonhuman actors as parasocial.

Design/Methodology/approach - Conceptual, based on literature review.

Findings - We elaborate on nonhuman actors as actors with agency, influencing resource integration and value co-creation in contemporary service ecosystems. Taking customers’ experiences as the criteria in defining who is a social actor, parasocial actors are recognized as vital to resource integration and value creation. We present a human–nonhuman actor framework, where parasocial actors play an important role in resource integration and value co-creation in service ecosystems. The framework widens our view of who or what is to be considered a resource integrating actor in value co-creation. Additionally, we suggest research questions that open up new avenues for future research.

Originality/value and Practical implications - This paper contributes to value co-creation and resource integration discussion in SDL literature by expanding the perspective of resource integrating actors in service ecosystems to non-human actors that customers experience being social and human-like. This opens up new possibilities for researchers and managers who design value creation and resource integration in service ecosystems. We argue that it is not crucial whether actors are human or nonhuman. The relevant decision criteria for managers is how customers experience nonhuman actors and how that – through engagement, interaction and experienced relationships – influences resource integration and value creation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationService Dominant Logic, Network and Systems Theory and Service Science: Integrating three Perspectives for a New Service Agenda : Proceedings of the 2017 Naples Forum on Service
EditorsEvert Gummesson, Cristina Mele, Francesco Polese
Place of PublicationTricase
PublisherYoucanprint Self-Publishing
Publication date06.2017
ISBN (Print)978-88-92667-57-0
Publication statusPublished - 06.2017
MoE publication typeA4 Article in conference proceedings
Event2017 Naples Forum on Service - Naples, Italy
Duration: 06.06.201709.06.2017
Conference number: 5


  • 512 Business and Management
  • Value co-creation
  • service ecosystem
  • agency
  • parasocial
  • experience


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