Confessions are said to be important for members’ tribal experiences and they are usually ascribed religious meanings in existing research on consumer tribes. This suggests that confessions have a regulative role for tribal life. By employing the Foucauldian notion of pastoral power, the present study explores confession practices and examines how control is manifested.
The study is based on a netnographic study and analysis of tribal members’ confessions across three online consumer tribes devoted to opera (Loggionisti, who are opera aficionados of the La Scala theatre in Milan, Italy), sports (football and hockey fans of Djurgården, Sweden), and cars (Alfa Romeo owners).
We demonstrate how confessions align consumers with the common tribe ethos and how this constitutes members into various subject positions, which are fundamental social processes for reinforcing the tribe. More specifically, it demonstrates four types of subject positions: the ‘pastor’, ‘regular sheep’, ‘good sheep’ and ‘black sheep’, and how these subject positions regulate the actions of tribe members.
The present study theorizes how control is manifested and facilitated in consumer tribes. The study also explicates the confession and its role as a religious regulating practice fundamental for the life of a consumer tribe.
Community managers can recognize the different subject positions that emerge within a community and help facilitate the interactions among community members.
Previous studies are silent about how confessions reproduce control in consumer tribes. The present study highlights confession practices and the constitution of subject positions, which regulate as well as reinforce consumer tribes.
2013. Vol. 15, 325-350 p.