Research in Consumer Behavior: Volume 13

Table of contents

(20 chapters)
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List of Contributors

Pages vii-viii
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Pages ix-x

This volume contains the best papers from the sixth Consumer Culture Theory (CCT) Conference. The Conference cochairs have acted as coeditors for this thirteenth volume of Research in Consumer Behavior and provide the following introduction.

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Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to explore the orientations of consumer and company participants who participate in online crowd-sourced communities.

Methodology/Approach – Using a netnographic approach, we analysed the Nokia Design by Community (NDbC) crowd-sourced information contest, which was organised by Nokia in order to co-create a vision of the community's ‘dream’ Nokia device.

Findings – The findings reveal that community members' social orientations were dramatically different from the host organisation's narrow commercial focus, which led to unresolved tensions and as we posit, the ultimate failure of the initiative.

Research implications – The contemporary discourse on collaborative value co-creation potentially overemphasises the commercial objectives of organisations by failing to acknowledge the need for organisations to address the complex communal objectives and motivations of members of crowd-sourced communities.

Practical implications – Organisations need to acknowledge and address the complex and dynamic communal and commercial tensions that inherently emerge in online crowd-sourced communities. They need to adopt a tribal marketing approach and respectfully engage with community members if the diverse objectives of community members and the host organisations are to be satisfactorily met.

Originality/Value – Organisations and researchers need to recognise and acknowledge that crowdsourcing both begets communal conflict and fosters collaborative behaviour due to contested commercial and social orientations. While mindful of their commercial objectives, organisations will succeed in implementing online crowd-sourcing initiatives if they make a sincere effort to understand and respect the diversity, culture and social norms of the particular crowd-sourced online community concerned.

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Purpose – A study of amateur gourmet chefs was conducted in order to expand our understanding of consumer resistance, and to theorize the relationship between culture, consumer culture, and material culture.

Methodology/approach – A semi-structured long interview approach was employed, so that the interviewees could relate their experience of cooking in their own terms. The methodology was inspired by the existential–phenomenological tradition in consumer research.

Findings – All eschewed participation in the market for cookware. They contend that “real” cooks value utility over all, and question the aestheticization, fetishization, and mass marketing of cookware to a general audience. Their responses reveal the role of culture, knowledge, information, socialization, and market structure on consumer values and beliefs, thereby bringing into question the concept of consumer agency.

Research limitations/implications – The interviews were conducted in only one geographic location and cultural milieu. Future research should examine these concepts in additional contexts.

Practical implications – The analysis reveals the basis of effective consumer resistance. In order to resist, consumers must reject citizenship in consumer culture and reconceive their political subjectivity. That said, such an approach only has emancipatory potential at the level of the individual. The interviews underscore the need for a continued critique of the operation of power in the market.

Originality/value of paper – Most of the extant literature focuses on cultural practices that have formed in response to practices within mainstream consumer culture. The cooks interviewed argued that their practice is rooted in traditions that precede consumer culture.

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Purpose – Anthropomorphism abounds in contemporary consumer culture. This chapter evaluates the recent anthropomorphic uptick and shows how it can be utilized for pedagogic purposes – namely, a brand animal novel called The Penguin's Progress.

Methods/approach – The chapter adopts a case study approach (though “exemplar” is perhaps a better word). It employs an alternative mode of knowledge representation, fictionalized nonfiction.

Findings – The exemplar reveals that student engagement is enhanced when unorthodox modes of representation are embraced by educators, though such pedagogic tactics are not without their shortcomings.

Research implications – If student reaction to The Penguin's Progress is any indication, then this chapter has enormous implications for the way consumer researchers communicate their ideas. A root and branch rethink is required.

Practical implications – The Penguin's Progress provides an alternative pedagogic option, an off-beat route to knowledge acquisition. Whether it's widely adopted, remains to be seen.

Originality – The chapter reveals that marketing and consumer research does not have to be written in a dry-as-dust manner.

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Purpose – This conceptual chapter clarifies concepts of marketplace community.

Methodology/Approach – Through a review of selected CCT studies, the chapter explores and reviews theories of subcultures of consumption, brand communities and consumer tribes.

Findings – Subcultures of consumption, brand communities and consumer tribes exhibit divergent qualities that are summarised in a typology of communities.

Research implications – The perspectives offered by tribal studies present powerful tools that compliment subcultural and brand community approaches to understanding the construction of marketplace cultures.

Practical implications – Theory that improves the understanding of different features of marketplace communities can help marketing practitioners to determine more appropriate communal marketing strategies.

Originality/Value of paper – This chapter recommends a consistent and commonly shared set of descriptive and theoretical terms for different kinds of marketplace community.

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Purpose – To develop CCT's practice perspective to increase the understanding of the consumption context and thereby of the sociohistoric patterning of consumption.

Design/methodology/approach – An ethnographic exploration of how the different practices involved in a consumption situation, like the everyday dinner among single mothers, contextualized consumption.

Findings – The chapter concludes that mothering, defined as a meta-practice, dominated the consumption situation and organized the other practices involved.

Originality/value – Introducing the concept of meta-practices having a major influence over our consumption and thus a type of practice consumption research should look for.

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Purpose – This study investigates the practice of dreaming in consumer culture – a phenomenon that has been excluded from previous CCT discussions despite its inevitable presence in consumers' everyday lives.

Methodology/approach – The chapter draws upon anthropological, sociological, and ethnological literature on dreaming and upon a practice-based literature on consumption so as to explore the reciprocal relation between dreaming and consumer culture. The theoretical starting point is, thus, that society dreams in us. Empirically, dream diaries are used as data.

Findings – The exploratory analysis indicates that both the content of dreams and the way dreams are conceived are shaped and structured by the practices, values, and symbols offered by the globalized media and consumer culture.

Implications – The insight that the market and media discourse organizes also the world of dreams has implications to the existing literature on fantasy and fun, marketization, and mediatization of everyday life and on the literature on consumption places and spaces. More generally, the study unsettles the disciplinary habit of taking the waking and alert consumer as the unquestioned starting point of knowledge production and theory-making in cultural consumer research. Dreams provide an angle for further theorizing many key aspects of consumer culture, such as the notion of active consumer and meaning-making.

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Purpose – The purpose of this research is to explore the experiences of male customers of escorts who provide a sexual service known as the “girlfriend experience” or GFE.

Methodology/approach – A combination of depth interviews and netnography is used to study how men experience the GFE.

Findings – Unlike most customer-prostitute encounters, the GFE involves more than the exchange of money for sex; to derive the full value of the experience, the consumer must not only pay the escort but must also provide her with sexual pleasure and emotional intimacy. The resulting encounter is more romantic and intimate than purely sexual in nature. Findings are organized around three central themes: consumption of covert (i.e., secretive) pleasure, consumer fantasies, and the ways in which consumers cocreate value in the consumption experience.

Originality/value of the chapter – This research explores how consumers engage in a form of consumption that has been largely overlooked by consumer researchers, and how consumers experience the blurring of boundaries between purely transactional service encounters and those that entail a deeper connection between provider and consumer. In addition to shedding light on this consumption context in the form of description, this research illuminates some aspects of GFE consumption that are theoretically interesting (beyond the context itself) to consumer researchers.

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Purpose – This chapter aims to contribute to the theoretical domain of identity construction by discussing an aspect of identity-not, that is, how identity is largely formed by delimitations of what one does not identify with. We do this by analyzing the reactions of mainstream youth to the stylistic expressions of one particular youth group – the so-called Partille Johnnys (PJs) of Sweden – who in certain ways breaks with conventions of how to relate to the globally available canon of culturally sanctioned styles, which places them in a position as stigmatized. The purpose of the chapter is to further the understanding of how stigma gets orchestrated in consumer culture and what cultural role stigmatized groups might play.

Methodology – The empirical material for this chapter has been collected using various qualitative research techniques. Initially, the phenomenon was discovered and explored during ethnographic observations and interviews. In addition, online research was carried out.

Findings – The PJ style functions as a mirror for reflecting on transgressions of what is considered normal in terms of style and bodily practices for contemporary Swedish youth. Our conclusion suggests that the cultural function of the stigmatized group PJ is to serve as a reminder of what the mainstream is not.

Originality/value of the chapter – A phenomenon previously not studied, part of the value lies in the ethnographic descriptions capturing the PJ phenomenon. With these empirical descriptions, we wish to add to discussions of how the stigmatized groups gets orchestrated as well as the role that stigmatized groups can play at a cultural level.

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Purpose – In this chapter we consider how two apparently disconnected practices – one very human (loving relationships), another the apparently alienating outcome of consumer technology (videogame play) – may turn out to be linked in very intimate and perhaps surprising ways. In making this connection we hope to comment on how consumer practices may be understood in the context of dynamic human relationships and cultural ideals.

Methodology – We conducted 36 phenomenological interviews with adult videogame players in order to elicit everyday experiences of videogame play in the context of the individual's lifeworld. This chapter deals with aspects of data that explore relationships with partners and children.

Findings – We illustrate that consumer practices, ideals, and even couples are not stable things, but are subject to routine reconfiguration throughout life. We suggest the possibility of a triadic theory of human relationships that consists of the people themselves, their consumer practices, and ideas about what love means.

Originality/value of paper – Previous questions about the value of videogame consumption have tended to ask about violence or the normalcy of how we might spend our time. In this chapter we have attempted to shift the focus to questions about human relationships and how they might be enacted with consumer technologies. By understanding the interactions between human actors, their consumer practices and their ideals we are able to comment on existing critiques and celebrations of the impact of consumer culture on human relationships.

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Purpose – This interpretive study aims to demonstrate how dialectics might hamper researchers' imagination, inspiration, and insight that can otherwise enhance the understanding of a variety of phenomena in consumer-market dynamics and subsequently propose Foucauldian genealogy as an alternative to theorize such dynamics in the current consumer culture.

Methodology/approach – An ethonographic field study is conducted in the context of X Games, followed by an empirical juxtaposition of semiotic square, as a dialectical analysis, and a genealogical analysis of the same textual data.

Findings – Consumer-market dynamics operate based on interactions and mutual facilitations among four theoretically and empirically distinct groups of consumers in the context of X Games: pragmatic, stigmatized, distinction-oriented, and self-normalizing consumers. The historic conflict between consumers and the market steeped in Hegelian dialectics is contested in the dynamics due to the switch of modes(arts) of being(consumption) made by individual consumers who respectively participate in the system through presentation and representation.

Implications – A multitude of reality/truth-making is present in the consumer-market dynamics; thus, the dialectical view of the systematic progression of the market is found to be less implicative than the genealogical view of the system as polyvalent power relations.

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Purpose – To better understand how some users enjoy using Facebook as it breaks the tension between their desire to stare and the social norm dictating one should not stare.

Methodology – An interpretivist methodology was employed to understand why staring behaviour was so attractive to some Facebook users. 11 Facebook users took part in the study and were observed using Facebook, interviewed about their time online and asked to discuss posts that they had stared at in the past.

Findings – From the study it was shown that staring was commonplace on Facebook and ranged from harmless information searching to more extreme forms of Schadenfreude Staring. Regardless of the staring behaviour, the motivation remained constant. That is, Facebook allowed the users to engage in behaviour that is often stigmatised in offline settings.

Implications – This research highlights the importance of online behaviour as a release from offline tension and constraint. The research also highlights how some users may be actively engaging in behaviour online that offline may be deemed unsuitable or deviant.

Originality – Although much literature has looked at the role of online environments in identity formation, very little has looked at the role of online engagement as a means to specifically break with offline social norms. This research also highlights the growing trend of seeking information that elicits a sensation of Schadenfreude for the viewer. Further research should look to see how other forms of behaviour would elicit similar feelings of Schadenfreude and what implications this has on consumer culture.

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Purpose – A crucial discussion within the feminist discourse in consumption studies concerns the role of the marketplace in women's emancipation. While some theorists argue that women in contemporary society employ marketplace resources to construct individual, multiple identities, critics call attention to the fact that this argument may be applicable exclusively to Western, white, middle-class women, who possess sufficient capital to participate fully in the consumer culture. Our aim is to demonstrate that non-Western women with limited capital resources can benefit from the self-realizing modern woman discourse criticized by the second wave feminist research stream.

Methodology/approach – In support of the above perspective, we analyze depth interviews with fourteen Romanian women, aged 23–51, who had been living in Italy for one to twelve years at the time of the interview.

Findings – The internalization of the modern woman discourse featured in the marketplace is closely and interactively connected to the acquisition of cultural capital, leading eventually to the adoption of a self-reflexive cosmopolitan strategy that allows women to individuate and effectively resist the dominating discourses in the home and host societies.

Originality/value of paper – Our chapter adds a global dimension to the second wave and postfeminism discussions of the role of the marketplace in women's gender role negotiation. We illustrate that the modern woman discourse featured in the marketplace may act as an emancipating force for women who originated in a patriarchal society. By doing so, we also offer an overlooked gendered perspective on the discourse of global consumer culture.

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Purpose – The purpose of the current research is to enhance our understanding of how nouveaux pauvres consumers use consumption to cope with their life situations. We use the term nouveaux pauvres to represent middle-class consumers who experience a decrease in sociocultural status relative their previous situation.

Methodology – The data for this study were collected over a four-year period in Sweden, Turkey, and the United States. Various qualitative data collection and analysis methods were used, such as phenomenological and ethnographic interviews, as well as ethnographic observation.

Findings – We identify three different ways that nouveaux pauvres consumers experience their loss of status. Some experience feelings of shame and guilt, others are left in a vacuum and some grieve their lost identity position. We then propose three different strategies that nouveaux pauvres consumers might choose to cope with the loss of status. Some engage in inventing a new consumer role for themselves, others choose a more reluctant strategy of opting out of social circles and isolating oneself, and finally there are those that engage in straightforward reconstruction of their old identity. Furthermore, each of the three consumption strategies links to a specific kind of downward movement – from unfamiliar/familiar to familiar/unfamiliar social spaces – for each individual.

Originality/value of paper – The consumer experience of downward status transformations has been curiously neglected in consumer culture theory. Since contemporary consumer cultures are increasingly characterized by liquidity and movement, it is likely that the experience of descending in status will be more common in the future and therefore of utmost importance to understand more fully.

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Purpose – Hybrid reality television, a burgeoning subgenre spawning from the reality television genre, distinguishes itself from its parent genre through dramatizations that have been described as presenting a “quasi-reality” that is disorientating for the viewer (Caramanica, 2010). In addition to blurring the lines between fact and fiction, hybrid reality programs blur the lines between product placement and entertainment as products are seamlessly blended into the depicted lifestyles. This research explores how consumers negotiate hybrid reality television programs and how this process transpires in viewers' reactions to the consumption portrayals within the programs.

Methodology/approach – Insights were sought from qualitative in-depth interviews with avid viewers of an archetype of the hybrid reality subgenre, the MTV program The Hills.

Findings – The findings reveal varying degrees of self-reflexive consciousness, reflecting viewers' critical awareness of the rhetoric of the program, the artifices of the hybrid reality genre, and their role as an audience. Self-reflexive consciousness facilitates a critical response toward the text in which viewers recognize the artifices of the genre and thus regard the program as “real” and “not real” and simultaneously worth and worthless viewing at the same time, in a textual strategy, we refer to as ironic (dis)engagement.

Originality/value of the chapter – On the basis of this body of data, a typology of viewer responses to hybrid reality programs emerges with corresponding consumption strategies as viewers negotiate the consumption portrayals within The Hills. These findings suggest that viewers embrace product placement within the subgenre and that the program has pioneered and opened up new horizons for lifestyle branding practices within television programming.

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Research in Consumer Behavior
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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