Reflections on ACR 2008 in San Francisco, 3 of 3

In the last few blog entries,  I related some of the interesting events surrounding ACR 2008 in San Francisco and relating some of the sessions and Plenary speeches of the Doctoral Symposium. I also detailed in my last blog John Deighton’s very thought-provoking speech, which really captured the zeitgeist of the American moment for me. Today, I just want to highlight just a scant few of the other interesting sessions and presentations this year.

Of course, the afternoon of the Symposium was also very interesting. We had groups broken out then by theoretical  interest, which has in past years also been the way that things are done. I enjoyed sitting in on several of the sessions, where mainly people were presenting their own research projects and interests.

In the CCT session, a heated, spirited debate broke out, which probably alarmed the students. Academics, fighting and arguing amongst themselves? What could be more natural…and more healthy for the development of good research. It also gave some grist for the mill that I hope to be able to follow up on in a future session, possibly at the upcoming CCT conference in Detroit in Summer 2009.

The conference itself was jam-packed with interesting, informed sessions, more than ever before. I believe we had twelve tracks going at once, which means that there are twelve rooms full of presenters (usually four in each), each presenting research. As an attendee, you had to choose among these twelve sessions-often a very tough choice.

On Friday morning, I caught the session on Witchcraft. Yes, you read it right. Cloaked in the title “Roll You Own Religion,” there were three terrific presentations by extraordinary consumers researchers who were studying the consumption of paganism, magic, the occult and witchcraft.

I’ve always been interested in the links between spirituality and consumer culture. You’ll find me babbling about it in everything from my earliest work Star Trek to my exploration of Burning Man to my latest work on technology ideologies. It’s a core thread running through this blog which is, of course, named as an homage to Rudolf Steiner, one of the great mystics and spiritual philosophers of our time. I’m reading a lot more about those great Mystery School traditions now, and even visiting some of the great sites, and I’ll have a lot more to say about these topics in future postings.

I think that it is incredibly relevant, meaningful, and practical to investigate the role of the mystical and magical in consumers’ everyday lives and consumption. This set of ethnographic research projects, presented by Darach Turley of Dublin City University, Pauline Maclaran of the Royal Holloway Business School at the University of London, Linda Scott of the Said Busienss School at Oxford, and Diego Rinallo of Bocconi Universirty in Milan, is, in my opinion, the most exciting and highest-potential ethnographic work  being done in the field of consumer research today.

That’s saying something. I missed the Odyssey, but have had the pleasure of hearing some of the war tales from the front lines by those most involved in its inception and execution.  I had the privilege to see John Schouten and Jim McAlexander present their Harley work in the mid- 1990s. That certainly had the feeling of something massive and substantial. So too did Al Muniz and Tom O’Guinn’s work on brand communities. I’m looking forward to following this Witchy Consumer Research and seeing it develop and grow and have massive impact in our field and beyond.

Closer to home, Jay Handelman presented some new and updated research on consumer activism that we’ve been working on an percolating for over a decade-follow-on research and new theory development based on and extending into new terrain our prior work on consumer activism. And Professor Ashlee Humphreys, recently graduated  from the Kellogg School and in her first ACR as an assistant professor from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University , presented some work we have been doing together that looks at the communal acts and dynamic co-creation modalities of YouTube viewers  and participants.  I’m very excited about both of these pieces of research and am looking forward to developing them further with my co-authors.

That’s all I’m going to say about ACR this year. It was a large event, but for me it was awesome. Even though it is big, diverse, and growing more diverse all of the time, there is a real family feeling, a genuine feeling that we are a community. We have common interests and goals. For the most part, we understand and respect each other. It was a great year for ACR, a great location, and a great time, and I’m looking forward to next year’s conference, where Jeff Inman will lead us in Pittsburgh.

I’m back a’blogging. It feels good. Next, I’ll post the poetry hypotheses. Please have a glance at that stuff and if you feel moved, leave a comment or two.

Adios for now, amigos.


  1. Domen November 3, 2008
  2. daleforbes November 6, 2008

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