Silent as a Ninja: Diving into identity construction

Student thesis: Master Thesis and HD Thesis

  • Tobias Bjørn Sørensen

Consumption in the 21st century has proven to be much more than simply buying a product, postmodern consumers take on different (consumer) identities and use consumption as a way differentiating from others

Identity is one of these modern buzzwords that have developed from a philosophical notion into a concept that has made its way into everything from corporate and marketing theory as well as consumer research.

Today society is much more focused on individualism and consumer goods are used to outline social differences, goods however are becoming more and more standardised and everybody more or less look the same and people tend to cluster together with likeminded people in communities, tribes and clubs in search for a sense of belonging. One such group is Ninjadivers a Danish forum for extreme divers called rebreather divers who spend a lot of time and money on a hobby that potentially can kill the them if they are not careful.

The main research question is How rebreather divers construct their identity through their sport? Including What role consumption and communities whether online or offline play in the identity construction and whether the group can be characterized as a consumer tribe or not.

The study is based on a constructivist approach which includes a combination of netnographic data collection and 13 qualitative interview which have been analysed by applying a combination of hermeneutics, which is based on interpretation, and a meta-matrix which provides an overview of the collected data, by showing clusters, patterns and themes that have appeared during the interviews.

The theoretical framework of the study combines theory on identity with theory on communities and consumer tribes. Theory on consumer tribes is closely related to that of netnography especially the part of roles.

The primary objective of this study was to produce knowledge about rebreather divers, on how they construct their identity:

The netnography and the interviews indicates that rebreather divers are quite different from other people who gather in communities and tribes, which according to theory is very diverse and heterogenic. The narrow niche, which set high standards for experience, investment and devotion seem to have influence on the composition of the group which an in many ways is a homogeneous group of people.

The limited amount of netnographic data is an indication that the community of rebreather divers is formed elsewhere something which is very different from what theory on tribes says. The community of rebreather divers is created much more in offline settings, something all the interviewee’s acknowledged. This suggests that rebreather diving is much more something the members of Ninjadivers do together rather than talk about. Ninjadivers were for instance not prone to communicate much online about themselves and their relations to diving and/or other divers. In fact, most of what is posted on Ninjadivers is of a technical nature. This makes the data retrieved from Ninjadivers very different from the expected rich and thick data, other researchers have based their netnographies on. Other studies have produced rich and thick community data in terms of identity, brand preference and consumption, i.e. Harley Davidson enthusiasts, Apple Enthusiasts, record collectors and coffee connoisseurs.

The consumption in relation to rebreather diving has shown throughout the interviews that it differs with what theory on consumer tribes indicates that the linking value is the most important aspect of consumption. Because with the exception of Christian and Peter S none of the interviewees including open system divers, bought a new unit on a regular basis. However there are indications that the rebreather unit has an indirect linking value as it opens up for social activities through which the rebreather divers bond. The group narcissism displayed in the interviews and the netnography, the rebreather unit also exemplifies and entry ticket where members have to “earn” their membership through the purchase of a rebreather, which is an aspect that has not been covered in theory that for the framework of this study.
Publication date14 May 2013
Number of pages91
Publishing institutionAAU
ID: 76400358