I finally found the time to blog about my doctoral dissertation after a busy round of conferences and filmmaking this summer. I successfully defended my thesis, titled “Exploring the Cultural Logic of Translocal Marketplace Cultures: Essays on New Methods and Empirical Insights”, at the Aalto University School of Economics in May 2010. I had the honour to have professor Robert Kozinets (York Univerisy, Schulich School of Business) as my co-examiner and opponent.
To explain briefly, my dissertation research involves taking a cultural, practice-oriented perspective to consumption and markets. It pays attention to the new forms of marketplace cultures that have recently emerged due to cultural and technological transformations such as the increasing hypermobility of people and new means of digital communication and connectivity around the globe. New computer-mediated social networks – iconized by Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other consumption-oriented online communities and groups – have given rise to new kinds of cultural production. My dissertation examines the translocal nature of such phenomena: culture, identity, space, and sites that are not bound or limited by particular national, geographic, or territorial constraints and through which consumers’ lives, experiences, and practices are increasingly mediated today.
New digitalized consumption communities accelerate translocal marketplace cultures
The key notion of the dissertation is translocality, which refers to a transnational network of interconnected local sites and social spaces, both physical and virtual, through which culture is increasingly being negotiated, shaped, and produced. To conceptualize and provide concrete examples of translocal cultural production, the dissertation investigates consumption-oriented communities, the so-called ‘consumer neo-tribes’, as particularly good examples of translocal communities.
By investigating consumer communities that gather around a common interest or lifestyle – I studied budget travelling and extreme sport activities (paintball) – the dissertation offers insights suggesting that translocal communities and practices play an important role in transnational cultural production. The empirical studies illustrate how translocal communities increasingly collaborate, share information, exchange knowledge, and negotiate consumption practices via new digital media. In addition, the findings show that the new communication media, combined with less constrained transnational mobility, has made it possible for consumers to take part in various consumer communities in radically new ways and with less effort. These key developments, the dissertation claims, have spurred the creation of more profound, organized, empowered, and transnationally spread consumer networks.
New methods for studying translocal marketplace cultures: netnography and videography
My dissertation also lays out new approaches and methods for studying translocal communities and practices. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in both online and offline settings, I develop netnographic and videographic methods that may benefit companies, researchers, and policy-makers in analyzing how new forms of translocal marketplace practices emerge, spread, and transform.
Altogether, my dissertation package includes a summary essay plus four individual essays – three of which have been published in international academic journals. The fourth essay, a videographic study accompanied with a paper, has been described also in this blog. Here’s the list of essays, just to give you a better idea of the contents:
1. Rokka, J.: Netnographic Inquiry and New Translocal Sites of the Social. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 34, (2010) 381-387.
2. Rokka, J. & Moisander, J.: Environmental Dialogue in Online Communities: Negotiating Ecological Citizenship among Global Travellers. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 33, (2009) 199-205.
3. De Valck, K., Rokka, J. & Hietanen, J.: Videography in Consumer Research: Visions for a Method on the Rise. Finanza Marketing e Produzione, 27, (2009) 81-100.
4. Rokka, J., Hietanen, J. & De Valck, K.: Brothers in Paint: Practice-Oriented Inquiry into a Tribal Marketplace Culture. In Advances in Consumer Research, 37, (2010) Campbell, M.C., Inman, J., Pieters, R. (eds.), (forthcoming). (Videography and paper).
I was happy to get some attention from the local news media. I was interviewed by a number of newspapers who also made some of the material available online. To my slight surprise, the work and ideas presented in my thesis were well received by the reporters. I guess this can be considered some sort of success, at least when considering the fact that many academic works simply wont translate to wider audiences. I think one possible reason for this is that I had quite a few timely themes to discuss, including the consequences of social media, consumer tribes, video research, online research etc. In addition, what gained a lot of interest in my thesis was exactly what we’ve been discussing in this blog: research on video and its accessibility online. This is a good signal for our future work!
Here’s a couple of links I found (in Finnish unfortunately):
Kauppalehti 17.5.2010 “Web-Based Communities Produce New Forms of Consumer Culture”
Turun Sanomat 24.5.2010 “Consumer Power in Peer-to-Peer Communities”
Kaleva 22.5.2010 “Understanding Consumers Everyday Lives”