CMC’s Rebecca Watkins and Dr Mike Molesworth received Best Competitive Paper at the Consumer Culture Theory conference in Tucson, Arizona this June.
The paper, entitled ‘The Biographies of Digital Virtual Goods’, communicated empirical findings from Rebecca’s PhD research which explores ownership and possession in the context of digital goods, from magical swords, luxury cars, and avatars within virtual worlds to mp3s, ebooks, and social networking profiles. The paper contributes to existing understanding of digital goods as possessions and builds on award-winning research on digital virtual consumption by Mike and Dr Janice Denegri-Knott, both senior lecturers within CMC and members of the Emerging Consumer Cultures Research Group (ECCG).
A key contribution of the paper, and of Rebecca’s research more broadly, is to illustrate that our understanding of material culture and consumption, so understandably rooted in the materiality of goods, is problematised by the emergence of digital possessions, often leading to tense and turbulent relationships between consumers and the providers of these digital goods that are yet to be adequately addressed by policy makers.
This was Rebecca’s second time attending and presenting at this particular conference, which last year was held at Oxford University. Reflecting on her first attendance at the conference she recalls being overwhelmed by the academic rigour of the research presented and the presence of key figures in the field.
“You see how quickly you become part of the research community,” Rebecca said of her most recent attendance to the event, noting what an honour it was to receive the award because the conference consistently demands such high-quality research.
Rebecca, also a 2011 graduate of the undergraduate advertising programme, is now completing her second year of the PhD, supervised by Mike and Janice and funded by BU.
In her two years of PhD study, Rebecca has presented at international conferences and has received two awards for work, including this CCT best paper. Additionally, Rebecca received Best Oral Presentation at the annual BU Postgraduate Research Conference held in April for her paper titled “The Exploitation of Consumers’ Immaterial Labour Online: Consequences for DVG ownership and possession”. She has also presented some of the early findings of her PhD to Microsoft Research in Cambridge in order to develop relationships with those in industry doing research in this area.
Presenting at international conferences and publishing research is an important part of the PhD experience in ECCG, said Mike, noting that supervisors encourage PhD candidates to do so from the very beginning of the process. He pointed out that researchers in ECCG, including its PhD students, have been very successful in being selected to present their research at the CCT conference, which is very well respected for the calibre of research presented. ECCG researchers and PhD students have presented at the last four conferences and have had papers published from three.
This autumn Rebecca will be moving into the final year of her PhD, and she plans to begin writing up her findings in September. Alongside her research, Rebecca also teaches in CMC and this year will be teaching with colleagues in the department on Online Culture and Behaviour and Consumer Culture and Behaviour, as well as supervising dissertations.
About Consumer Culture Theory and the conference:
Consumer Culture Theory (CCT) is an interdisciplinary field that comprises macro, interpretive, and critical perspectives of consumer behaviour, and the CCT conference has become the premier international venue for consumer culture researchers spanning a broad spectrum of academic disciplines to come together to share their ideas, empirical insights, and theoretical interests in an engaging, cutting edge, collegial forum.
The CCT conference invites original contributions in the form of full papers that undergo a rigorous peer review process with three double blind reviewers, and as a result research presented at the conference is consistently of an exceptionally high standard.
About ECCG and research in CMC:
CMC has a very active research culture that covers a variety of themes and contexts from corporate communication to political communication to consumer cultures. ECCG researchers share an interest in consumer cultures and behaviours that may not be considered ‘mainstream’. This includes research into the consumer imagination, the political life of consumers, the consumption of digital media, addictive consumption, deviant consumer behaviour and voluntary simplifiers.