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noii bikeri

noii bikeri

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articol noii bikeri - curs MTCS
articol noii bikeri - curs MTCS

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Published by: mysuf on Mar 09, 2010
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Subcultures
of
Consumption:
An
Ethnography
of
the New Bikers
JOHN W. SCHOUTENJAMES H. MCALEXANDER*
This article introduces the subculture
of
consumption as an analytic category throughwhich
to
better understand consumers and the manner in which they organize theiriives and identities. Recognizing that consumption activities, product categories,
or
even brands may serve as the basis for interaction and social cohesion, the conceptof
the
subcuiture
of
consumption soives many problems inherent
in the use of
ascribed social categories
as
devices
for
understanding consumer behavior. Thisarticle
is
based on three years
of
ethnographic fieldwork with Hartey-Davidson mo-torcycle owners.
A key
feature
of the
fieldwork was
a
process
of
progressive con-textualization
of
the researchers from outsiders
to
insiders situated within the sub-culture. Analysis
of the
social structure, dominant values, and revealing symbolicbehaviors
of
this distinct, consumption-oriented sutKulture have led to the advance-ment
of a
theoretical framework that situates subcultures
of
consumption
in the
context
of
modern consumer culture
and
discusses, among other implications,
a
symbiosis tietween such subcultures and marketing institutions. Transferability
of
the principal findings
of
this research
to
other subcultures
of
consumption
is
estab-lished through comparisons with ethnographies
of
other self-selecting, consumptiorvoriented subcultures.
T
he most powerful organizing forces in modern lifeare
the
activities
and
associated interpersonal
re-
lationships that people undertake
to
give their livesmeaning.
In
choosing how
to
spend their money
and
their time, people
do not
conform always
or
neatly
to
the ascribed analytic categories currently proffered
by
academia (e.g., ethnicity, gender, age, VALS group,
or
social class). They take part
in
the creation of their owncategories.
As
consumer researchers
we are
uniquelypositioned
to
identify
and
understand
the
organizingforces that people bring to their own lives through theirconsumption choices.
In so
doing we discover subcul-tures
of
consumption.For
the
purpose
of
our discussion, we define
a sub-
culture
of
consumption
as a
distinctive subgroup
of
society that self-selects
on the
basis
of a
shared
com-
mitment
to a
particular product class, brand,
or con-
sumption activity. Other characteristics of a subculture
•John W. Schouten is assistant professor of marketing. School ofBusiness Administration. University ofPortland.Portland. OR 97203.James H. McAlexander is associate professor of marketing. Collegeof Business Administration. Oregon State University, Corvallis. OR
97331.
We wish to thank the people of Harley-Davidson, Inc.. fortheir time and support in this project. We respectfully note the fi-nancial support of the University of Portland and Oregon State Uni-versity. We also thank our peers and reviewers for their time andvaluable insights. Our most heartfelt gratitude goes out to our families
who,
over the last three years, have witnessed with mixed emotionsour gradual metamorphoses into full-time biker ethnographers.
43
of consumption include
an
identifiable,
hierarchical
social structure;
a
unique ethos,
or
set
of
shared
beliefs
and values;
and
unique jargons, rituals,
and
modes
of
symbolic expression.Prior ethnographies
of
self-selecting
or
achieved (vs.ascribed) subcultures reveal glimpses
of
characteristicsthat make such groups especially intriguing to consumerresearchers
and
marketers. Such
a
subculture typicallyencounters
in
certain products
or
activities culturalmeanings that ultimately become articulated
as
unique,homologous styles
or
ideologies of consumption (Heb-dige 1979; Kinsey 1982; Schwendinger
and
Schwen-dinger 1985). Hard-core
or
high-status members
of
achieved subcultures function
as
opinion leaders (Fox
1987).
Subcuiturally created styles
may be
shared
or
imitated by a much larger audience or market peripheralto the core subculture (Fox 1987; Klein I985)andmayeven become imitated
and
commercialized
for
massconsumption (Blair and Hatala 1991;
Fox
1987;Gott-diener
1985;
McCracken
1986;
Schwendinger
and
Schwendinger 1985). Finally, certain achieved subcul-tures have been observed
to
transcend national
and
cultural boundaries (Stratton 1985). demographic
co-
horts(Pearson 1987). racial or ethnic differences (Klein
1985),
and class differences (Harris 1985) in their scopeand influence.This article has three objectives. The first is to presentan ethnographic analysis
of one
subculture
of con-
sumption, specifically the "new bikers," operationalized
© 1995 by JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH.
tiK.«
Vol.
22*Jiiiie 1995
All rights reserved. 0093-5301/%/2201-0004$2.00
 
44JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
as owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles who do notbelong to known outlaw organizations. We do not ex-clude outlaw bikers from the Harley-Davidson-orientedsubculture of consumption (hereafter abbreviatedHDSC); however, because ample ethnography exists ofsuch groups, we have chosen to focus instead on the yetunchronicled motorcycle enthusiasts that, with theoutlaws, form the HDSC. The second objective is toaddress certain methodological considerations impor-tant in studying subcultures of consumption. The thirdis to argue in favor of the subculture of consumptionas a very useful and yet overlooked analytic categoryfor understanding the objects and consumption patternswith which people (and markets) define themselves inour culture.We begin with a methodological description of theproject. We then discuss our findings in terms of fourmajor concerns: (1) the overall structure of the subcul-ture, (2) its ethos (i.e., its underlying values and theirexpression and maintenance), (3) its impact on the livesand identities of individual consumers, and (4) its ar-ticulation with marketing institutions. Throughout thetext we compare the results of our research with extantethnographies of other achieved subcultures such thatthe resulting discussion achieves a broader theoreticalfoundation for understanding subcultures of consump-tion.
ETHNOGRAPHIC METHOD
This description of the HDSC is based on three yearsof iieldwork that evolved from site-specific, part-timeethnography into sustained, full-time ethnographic im-mersion in the HDSC. The evolving nature of our eth-nographic involvement allowed us to experience andinteract with different elements of the subculture as in-siders. In a process of progressive contextualization, webegan as outsiders and gradually became acceptedmembers of various groups within the HDSC. Alongthe road (literally and figuratively) toward the core ofthe subculture we gained insights and perspectives thatwould have been difficult, if not impossible, to achievethrough less sustained involvement. For example, asneophyte members of the subculture we recorded cer-tain experiences and observations: later, with increasedtime and stature within the subculture, we were privi-leged to understand those same neophyte experiencesfrom a new vantage point as more seasoned insiders.Furthermore, as we deepened our ethnographic in-volvement our access to informants near the core ofthe subculture improved greatly. It was as though wewere made to demonstrate our own commitment to thesubculture before we could be taken into the full con-fidence of its adherents.
Background
The project began to take shape in our minds as away to address serious conceptual problems in the con-sumer behavior treatment of subcultures.
By
attemptingto create consumption profiles of groups predefined onthe basis of ethnicity or other ascribed characteristics,marketers and consumer researchers have run afoul ofseveral problems, not the least of which is stereotyping.What was needed, we reasoned, was to look at the phe-nomenon of subculture from a consumer behavior per-spective rather than vice versa, as traditionally has beendone.Our research interest in Harley-Davidson ownersarose not from any personal desire to ride motorcycles,nor from any real desire to associate with bikers. Neitherof
us
was a motorcyclist prior to beginning this project,and neither had any knowledge of biker culture beyondwhat is universally accessible from media representa-tions. What caught our interest was the possible exis-tence ofa distinctive, homogeneous, and enduring sub-culture that defined itself not only by a particularactivity or lifestyle, but also by a single brand of product!
Evolution of Ethnographic Involvement
Over three years ago, with the excitement and trep-idation of neophytes, we tiptoed into our fieldwork asnaive nonparticipant observers. At the time of thiswriting, we have spent the last year deeply immersedin the lifestyle of the HDSC, "passing" as bikers andmaking a conscious effort to maintain scholarly distancefrom the phenomena we are constantly experiencingand observing. Figure
1
overlays on a time line the evo-lution of our ethnographic involvement, which includescertain marker events and corresponding statuses, tasks,emotions, and levels of personal involvement with theHDSC.Certain tasks such as cultivating informants, collect-ing and interpreting data, and testing and triangulatingfindings were iterative and persisted throughout theethnographic process (cf. Belk,
Wallendorf,
and Sherry1989). Other tasks, however, were germane to specificstages of ethnographic evolution. For example, thetransition from outsider to insider required (1) accessto Harley-Davidson motorcycles, the single most im-portant prerequisite for entering the HDSC, and (2) aprocess of acculturation. Motorcycles were providedtwice by Harley-Davidson, Inc.. through short-termloans from the company's test fleet in San Dimas. Cal-ifornia. The loaners as well as the necessary phone callsfrom corporate headquarters allowed us to attend ourfirst and second rallies of the Harley Owners Group(HOG).' Company bikes and official sanction did not,however, ensure that we would be able to pass unob-trusively as Hariey owners. On the contrary, in the eariystages of research we made our academic researcherstatus clear in order to avoid giving the impression ofbeing official Harley-Davidson representatives.
'The Harley Owners Group (HOG) is an internalional, Harley-Davidson-sponsored organization exclusively for Harley owners.
 
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