network theory

The Abstract for My Doctoral Dissertation

Exploring Social Contagion Within A Tribe Called Hip Hop:
Social contagion of branded products within a defined and accessible culture of consumption is a marketer’s dream. Members who subscribe to these cultures of consumption collectively decide on consumption norms — which brands and products are ‘in’ and which are ‘out’ — based on the cultural characteristics of the cohort. The brands which are adopted by the culture of consumption become enriched with cultural meaning, which represent the styles and ideologies of its members (Hebdige, 1979; Kinsey, 1982; Schwendinger and Schwendinger, 1985), and elevates branded products from their utilitarian function to totem status (McCracken, 1986). The adoption of such branded products are shared and imitated within the members of the culture of consumption, which translates into collective, and often loyal, consumption behaviors. Furthermore, these consumption activities are known to diffuse beyond the members of the culture of consumption and, at times, become imitated by larger audiences (Fox, 1987; Klein, 1985) and marketed for mass consumption (Blair and Hatala, 1991; Schwendinger and Schwendinger, 1985). Yet, the occurrence of this phenomenon is thought to be serendipitous, and the process by which social contagion happens throughout these cultures of consumption are largely unknown.

Though defined by consumption activity, the ties that bind the members of a culture of consumption extend beyond their shared commitment to branded products. The tribal nature of these cultures of consumption are governed by “identifiable, hierarchical social structure; a unique ethos, or set of shared beliefs and values; and unique jargons, rituals, and modes of symbolic expression” (Schouten and McAlexander, 1995, pg 43), which are constructed by its members. In some cases, the influence of certain cultures of consumption have been known to extend beyond demographic segments (Pearson, 1987), racial and ethnic demarcations (Klein, 1985), social class rankings (Harris, 1985), and even national boarders (Stratton, 1985). No greater example of this can be seen than that of the hip hop culture of consumption, which has become a multi-billion dollar industry and has influenced consumption activities across such areas as music, automotive, fashion, sport, marketing, and tech (Taylor and Taylor, 2004). Hip hop is a large, well-defined, valuable, and growing culture of consumption with a set of beliefs, norms, artifacts, and language which govern the behaviors of this tribal collective and the social structure thereof. The construction of these governing cultural characteristics are highly visible and accessible by social media and other marketing channels of communication. What makes this potential even more staggering is that social contagion takes place among this culture of consumption not rarely but routinely, as seen in the adoption of Beat By Dre headphones, Adidas’ Yezzy sneakers, and Tommy Hilfiger clothing.

Social contagion within the hip hop culture of consumption is an extremely important marketplace phenomenon. However, there has been little systematic research done to examine how social contagion happens within the hip hop culture of consumption. This research, therefore, aims to generate a grounded understanding of the mechanisms of social contagion within the hip hop culture of consumption. In particular, what are the processes by which social contagion happens among its members and how does social contagion effect the expression of behavior intent and purchase behavior? How does the exchange and propagation of content between members of the hip hop culture of consumption translate into culture characteristics among the collective? A netnographic analysis will enable this research to observe the interactions and exchanges within the hip hop culture of consumption to develop a rich understanding of how branded products diffuse throughout the tribe. The ever-expanding influence of hip hop on consumption behavior creates an urgency for marketers to better understand how branded products, across a spectrum of industries, are adopted and socialized among this consumption-positive collective.

Norming and Behavior Adoption (in this case, specially, with technology)

On the path towards a merged psychological-network theory of innovation diffusion through online communities.

This is a VERY low-fi description of the psychological theories at work - as it pertains to behavior adoption and network theory - but certainly is easy to digest. Influence is largely based on the shape of the network that connects individuals and and the position said individuals have in the network. Their proximity to the core of the network makes all the difference between how fast a rumor spreads or if the information will reach them at all. Not only that but how likely we are to adopt norms and stick to them Very powerful.

As such, our connection to each other has more impact on the decisions we make than what we perceive to be our own free will. Our likelihood to take on behaviors depends on two key factors - Attitudes and Adoption - both of which require very dense undertakings. However, when done well…can make the difference between wearing over-the-ear headphones vs ear buds or maybe even stopping the spread of a STD.