The Activist Tale of Emergent Crowds & Mobilized Communities: Investigating the Interplay Between Consumer Activism & Consumer Collectives
Schneider, Leah Anne
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Consumers are collaboratively and collectively engaging in activist performances in the marketplace to challenge market(er) hegemony and power. Facilitated and enabled by online technologies, consumer collectives are waging battles both behind and outside of the screen, but is the performance of activism from a collective perspective influenced by the nature of the collective itself? This dissertation explores the intersection and interplay between consumer activism and collectives by addressing the questions of how the nature of a primarily online consumer collective influences its performance of activism, and conversely, how the performance of activism influences the evolution of pre-existing collectives. Analyzing five activist campaign sites using a netnographic method, this dissertation proposes that two types of collectives, the Emergent Crowd and the Mobilized Community, differ significantly in terms of their identity work and leadership organization and structure. These differences impact the campaigning behaviors exhibited; knowledge, resources, and platforms used; and tactical choices developed and enacted that constitute the activist performances. Furthermore, Mobilized Communities are shown to experience relationship transformations within and external to the collective that impact both individual behavior and the collectives evolutionary trajectory. In particular, alliance formation efforts, particularly enabled by social media platforms, are examined and discussed, ranging from non-responders to collaborative partners. Conclusions for practical and research applications regarding the distinct performances of activism in light of the collective a company or cause encounters, including suggestions for managing and taking advantage of value-creating opportunities, are suggested and discussed.