In addition to the themes covered in the previous posting, here’s to summarize some of this year’s sessions (with a couple of notes linking to our own project). The themes included: new research methods, postmodern and ethnic consumption, challenges linked to public goods/services, class dynamics and consumption, consumer culture in third world countries, consumer resistance/culture jamming, culture and ideology, market-mediated relationships, the contested notion of place that shapes consumer experiences, femininity, consumer-marketer co-creation, community and family, mediated images and ideologies of body and health, consumer identity practices, critical questions on consumer culture terminology, and finally, socio-cultural construction of authenticity — session where we presented this time.
I particularly liked the session on new methods. Visual Analysis (VA) was explored as a tool for gaining cultural insight on consumer behavior and practices. Kristen San Jose presented a piece in which she applied VA in the context of fashion consumption in Tokyo. Although there’s a long tradition of visual research in CCT, I agree that there’s plenty of future opportunities in this regard. For instance, researchers (and companies alike) often rely on text-based analyses. For us, it would be interesting to extend VA also towards moving images / video, something I haven’t seen yet. Adding nicely to the session, Alex Thompson’s presentation brought about interesting views on how companies perceive and conceptualize consumers, in a study where commercial ethnography was the focus. I liked the way in which video was used as a means to communicate consumer knowledge to company executives — this nicely contrasts with more traditional ppt presentations and figures we’re used to. Alex’s points about different mechanisms at play, including rituals, embodiment and symbols, are something video really can capture in an intriguing way.
Another interesting session set out to re-conceptualize the contested notion of place. Drawing insights from material culture theory, Jeppe Trolle Linnet’s presentation shed light on material and social aspects of place and space in the context of home and homeyness (what he called ‘hygge’ in Danish). It was interesting to see how this hygge is constructed and negotiated in different settings, not only at home but also in other social places such as neighborhoods or communities. They act as a sort of social comfort zone, a cozy, warm, and safe environment that is distinguished from other non-hyggelig, cold, and modern places. In a closely related study Zeynep Arsel and Jonathan Bean presented on ‘apartment therapy’ — a conduct in which people modify their homes through interior design to better match their desires. In our own research we’re also interested in how such interlinked and mediated cultural spaces and sites are at play.
In the co-creation session, several papers sought to understand the cultural dialogue and co-creation between consumers and producers/marketers. Robert Harrison presented a fascinating paper on Black Friday – a sort of corporate ritual and event which is largely the result of consumer’s active participation during a consumption event. Another really nice paper was by Daiane Scaraboto and Rob Kozinets who investigated the community of geo-cacaching — a sort of GPS treasure hunt game invented and organized by consumers. This study showed how consumer’s infinite innovative potential, playfulness, and creativity plays an important role in the creation of a new markets — exactly what we’re also seeing our own study.
Finally, our own session in which authenticity was explored as an essential component and a driver of culture. I think the session was very interesting as it nicely brought together three distinct viewpoints on authenticity — namely brand, place, and consumption-production interplay. As it was noted, in consumer research authenticity is often investigated by looking at consumer perceptions, and it is commonly tied to certain objects (e.g. brands), lifestyles, or places. In our presentation on electronic music culture, we wanted to consider how authenticity — which often drives cultural change in (music) culture — is actually achieved and negotiated by different influential cultural agents. In our study these agents in fact simultaneously adopt the role of producers, DJs, and consumers. We also brought with us our new research team member Risto (aka Desto) who is an authoethnographic member in our research team and a DJ/producer himself. This move was very well received, and we had lots of lively discussions after our presentation. Thanks for everyone involved!
Overall this fifth annual CCT conference pointed out many interesting future directions. Especially, the increasing attention to spatial and embodied aspects of culture as well as emphasis on creative methodologies — including audiovisual and multi-method approaches — brings to the fore new thrilling work that is currently emerging.