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Title: The luxury watch collector community : an ethnographic exploration into a heterogeneous community
Author: Athwal, Navdeep
ISNI:       0000 0004 5350 1204
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis explores the heterogeneity of virtual-community members and their activities using the exemplar of a luxury-timepiece community. The research focuses on how networks of diverse members (i.e. consumers, collectors and producers) are maintained in a predominantly virtual-community setting. Whilst existing studies recognise virtual communities as a platform to facilitate communication and interaction between individuals, there has been no detailed exploration of a heterogeneous multi-brand virtual community or how members form communal positions and roles specifically within, a typical hybrid (based online and offline) community. By drawing on pioneering work on complex networks and their development in a business-to-business context from the International Marketing and Purchase (IMP) Group is drawn on and extends IMP frameworks to investigate member interactions, cooperation and conflict between members, and communal positions and roles, all of which influence how effective networks with hybrid communities are maintained. The case selected is an internationally renowned, multi-brand, luxury-watch collector community. The findings are informed by an 18-month ethnographic study that employs immersive research techniques. Through the methods of active participation in online and offline settings, non-participant observation, semi-structured in-depth online and in-person interviews, and compilation of online discussion threads, the study offers a rich and complete understanding of the development and operation of the community, its network and its members. This heterogeneous multi-brand hybrid community comprises of the management and moderating team, luxury-watch collectors and consumers, authorised and independent watch dealers, luxury-watch manufacturers and brands. Members are brought together by a shared commitment to and interest in category-specific luxury brands, an object (luxury watches) and an activity (collecting). The primary contribution of this study is that both cooperation and conflict shape the network in such a hybrid community through the social, economic and informational interactions. Based on the analysis, a paradoxical side of collecting is uncovered as members show in contradictory sets of motives and behaviours. The network of members is shaped by the characteristics of the community, such as the shared emotional connections, communal boundaries and group symbols, and exchange of support. The relevance of these characteristics extends beyond WatchZone to other collector communities. Findings illustrate that a social hierarchy exists, where collections serve an important function to demonstrate mastery and connoisseurship, whilst knowledge and expertise are a source of informal and formal power for members. The findings are relevant to brand managers and more generally marketing practitioners as WatchZone is an ideal venue to develop and nurture relationships with consumers on a more personal level.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) ; University of Warwick ; Academy of Marketing Science
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HM Sociology