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Title: What is cool? : exploring consumer experiences
Author: Fell, David
ISNI:       0000 0004 7964 1694
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2019
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The notion of cool, or the label of coolness with respect to people's identity shaping practices, has fascinated scholars and marketers since its emergence in the mid-20th Century, but remains difficult to describe. Most previous studies frame it as a positive and desirable concept, but often theorise without seeking deeper empirical insights. CCT studies, however, advise exploration of historical discourses to understand difficult consumer phenomena. Disassembling cool, also unearthed many negative connotations. Cool seems edgy, so disturbances to psychological margins appear relevant. Anthony Giddens (1991) concept of ontological security describes a strong drive where individuals seek to create a sense of continuity and order in their lives. Its disturbance creating ontological insecurity, where identity or its boundaries seem threatened (Mitzen, 2006). As cool and ontological security/insecurity have not been previously connected in research, this thesis offers new theoretical insights. The subjectivity of cool summoned gathering a wide-range of consumer perspectives. I therefore developed an interpretive case-study methodology, exploring consumer experiences that were bounded by some describable cultural-forces. Two contemporary lifestyles commonly linked with cool; a) skateboarding and b) surfing provided contexts where individuals might be pursuing cool identities. A third anti-case; c) caravanning, provided a counterfoil, exhibiting few attributes associated with coolness. The case-studies involved 47 skateboarding, 31 surfing and 74 caravanning participants. Their insights and uncovered practices, allowed thematic, intertextual and emerging understandings of relationships between cool and various forms of ontological security and insecurity. My case-study research reveals those seeking coolness are often reacting to feelings of ontological insecurity. Driving a need to change by engaging in 'reskilling'; deliberately seeking-out precarious, exciting, fateful encounters. Surmounting them leads to higher-levels of ontological security. Mastery indicating successful morality and the ability to share progressive futures. Colonising the future, though, also needs legitimate belonging to progressive communities. Conformance within them builds trust but also requires mastery of unique cultural practices, while shielding the edgy desirability of the identity. Cool, though, is far more than narcissistic survival, requiring a profound, broader-consciousness for negotiating various threats to ontological insecurity. Those successfully attaining higher-levels of ontological security through true, committed relationships, however, seem less concerned. Transposing their anxieties towards other threats; protecting jobs, property or their intimate relationships.
Supervisor: Patterson, Anthony Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral