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Entry 4 www.thefoodpornproject.tumblr.com

Sali Davies


Entry 4: The extended-self As Belk (1988:139) stated, ‘we cannot hope to understand consumer behaviour without first gaining some understanding of the meanings that consumers attach to possessions’. Consequently, to truly appreciate my community and gain valuable data for my Netnography, it is essential that I begin to understand the attachments members have to their identity and the images they take. Research states that we must recognise that knowingly, or unknowingly our possessions are a part of ourselves, they extend our identity – especially in the digital world. This understanding will aid me in understanding not only the different types of users within the community, but the motivations and themes behind their posts. Although this concept is not new, it is evolving along with today communities. As James (1890, p. 291) notes, the extended self is not limited to external objects and personal possessions but also includes persons, our names and identities and what they mean to us. This is especially relevant to my community. The following metaphor can be applied: “me" (the self), but also that which is seen as "mine"(Belk 1988). These two concepts are interlinked in the way we see ourselves. Our names define us as human beings, they differentiate us from our peers, however members of the community see their name as a possession, something that they own and have become emotionally driven by their own obsession with their name it motivates them to photos and share their experiences online. As the digital phenomenon is revolutionising the way we live our lives it isn’t a surprise that the relationship between online and offline personas are the key to defining the self in a


digital age” (Belk, 2013). Many of our possessions are slowly being dematerialised. The way we communicate, consume information and even share photos are now all ‘largely invisible’ (Belk, 2013). Consequently, we are now knowingly or unknowingly creating online identities through our online participation. With regards to my community, one individual who has certainly extended her personality is the blogger, Jenna Livingston who is behind www.starbucksspelling.tumblr.com. Created in 2011, she has created herself an online identity by demonstrating her dedication to the community. This dedication has extended her personality and interests from the offline environment to the digital world. The blog has recently been published in a book names “trending tumblrs”. When asked what her motivations and inspirations behind the creation of the site, she states that she wanted to create a user-generated site which brought together a community of people which have experiences some form of frustration or humour when visiting Starbucks. It is likely that both emotions may re-occur in my data analysis. I aim to identify whether they are reliable motivations for ‘starbucksnames’ posts. As ‘Starbucks Spelling’ is a user-generated site, Jenna’s personality and personal input to the site remains minimal, however other bloggers have approached the topic in a different way, dedicating a site to a singular

name,

their

own

name.

For

example

in

http://howstarbucksspellmyname.tumblr.com/ ‘s blurb, the blogger denotes that the entire blog will be dedicated to his personal experience of his name being spelt incorrectly. This is a much more personal encounter of the community and the bloggers personality and ‘extended-self’ is much more likely to shine through. In this example, his posts highlight his frustration with these mistakes that he has encountered on his Starbucks “adventure”,


commenting on their “anal-ness”. In this section of text alone his motivations and feelings towards Starbucks is clear. Again, as mentioned earlier, the theme of frustration has already become apparent by merely reading the bloggers bio’ and site description.

Data Collection & Analysis As mentioned in an earlier entry, I have identified the main sources that I am focusing on in this study and have begun to collect relevant data. Consequently, as I am collecting the data I am beginning to analyse it as I go along. In keeping with Kozinets (2009) recommendations, I aim to conduct varying forms of analysis; both analytical coding and heuristic analysis (Grounded Theory). As I am new to analysing qualitative data in depth and have been struggling to analyse the data proficiently, I have decided to begin by using analytical coding. In all honesty, its all a little daunting, therefore I have downloaded a qualitative data analysis software programme ‘Atlas.ti’ in order to help me identify the themes and motivations in a block of text, code this information. I aim to systematically label passages of qualitative data. I am hoping that both the motivations of humour and frustration will appear in my initial codes to help provide the foundation for discovery of emerging relationships and patterns within the data. Initial analytical coding Actually most people don’t care1. The issue is highlighted

1

DEFENSIVE

because people see it as funny2, not because they see in as

2

HUMOUR?

a customer service problem.


Who Cares? I just want a cup of coffee.3

3

IGNORANCE?

Thanks for your comment!4 I’d say, based on the evidence

4

SARCASM or WITT?

presented that a lot of people care. In fact, Thrillist

5

DEFENSIVE/COMMITTED TO THE

highlighted this issue today in a funny slideshow.5

COMMUNITY

From this excerpt it is apparent that when identifying themes in my research that amongst the humour and frustration that there are always some comments which go on to say “who cares, all I want is my coffee” or something of those lines. However, is come cases, there are members of the online community who actually stand up for Starbucks as a brand and display some elements of DEFENSIVENESS – this is a theme I aim to research more extensively. In fact, the more I research into the community, the more I realised how much people care and get so emotionally involved with this community. If they didn’t care why would they spend time writing comments and reading these articles?

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