Keyboard warriors in cyberfights
: conflict in online communities of consumption

  • Olivier Sibai

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Nowadays, with the use of social media generalizing, increasingly more people gather online to share their passion for specific consumption activities. Despite this shared passion, conflicts frequently erupt in online communities of consumption (OCC). A systematic review of the literature revealed that a lot of knowledge has developed on OCC conflict. Different types of conflicts unfolding in an OCC context have been distinguished, various drivers of conflict identified and various consequences outlined at the individual level (experiential value) and the community level (collective engagement and community culture). However the specificity of conflicts unfolding in an OCC context has not been conceptualized. Past research is also inconclusive as to where and when does OCC conflict create or destroy value in communities. This research provides a theory of OCC conflict and its impact on value formation by conceptualizing OCC conflict as performances. The theory was developed by conducting a netnography of a clubbing forum. Close to 20,000 forum posts and 250 pages of interview transcript and field notes were collected over 27 months and analysed following the principles of grounded theory. Four different types of conflict performances are distinguished (personal, played, reality show and trolling conflict) based on the clarity of the performance. Each type of conflict performance is positioned with regard to its roots and consequences for value formation. This research develops knowledge on disharmonious interactions in OCCs contributing to the development of a less utopian perspective of OCCs. It indicates how conflict is not only a byproduct of consumption but it is also a phenomenon consumed. It also introduces the concept of performance clarity to the literature on performance consumption. This research provides guidelines to community managers on how to manage conflict and raises ethical issues regarding the management of conflict on social media.
Date of Award20 Nov 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aston University
SupervisorAndrew Farrell (Supervisor), John M Rudd (Supervisor) & Kristine de Valck (Supervisor)


  • online communities of consumption
  • conflict
  • consumuption and performance
  • performance marketing
  • consumer culture theory
  • community management

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