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Netnographic Research report- The Reddit Food
Community:
What are the themes within the community?
Contents
3. Introduction
3-4. Literature Review
4. Methodology
5-6. Data Analysis
7. Discussion and Conclusion
8. Appendices
Introduction
This report presents a netnographic study of an online food community, being RedditFood, with the
aim of identifying what themes and reasoning motivated the community members into uploading
certain photographs of food to the community, more specifically a category called 'Food Porn'. The
social media site, Reddit, was chosen due to the high level of activity among this specific
community, enabling me to analyse a high amount of data daily, whilst observing the specific trends
in the community, that would help me with the research. When collecting the relevant data needed
for the research, I referred to Kozinets' Netnography: Redefined (2015), using the investigation and
insight aspects, that are mentioned in the book, in order to create this netnographic data. To do so I
had to sit back, observe the community, the photographs and the comments posted and use the
aspects from Kozinets to pull the relevant data I needed. In doing this I noticed that there were a
few concepts within this community. First off, I noticed that there was a theme of bringing different
food cultures into the community, being able to share different experiences with one another,
creating a social catalyst between members. With this catalyst in place it led to people networking
within the community, bringing people together and bonding over these culutural experiences. Also,
there is a concept of creating envy of others, making them jealous (not maliciously), within the
community. Using the photographs of food that they have eaten or made, that are indulgent and fall
under the category of 'Food Porn' in order to make the other community members jealous of them in
that particular moment.
Literature Review
With the main focus of this study being about different food cultures and how the internet is used to
introduce people to new food cultures, I focused on articles that coincided with this theme. The use
of food cultures is now used as some sort of social catalyst, especially among online users, whether
they post a photograph of a new experience to them or they recommend a new type of food culture
to a friend, different cultural origins of food is a huge theme in our lives now.
Joan Henderson (2014) highlighted the relationship that is created through food and culture and the
social impacts it has in the paper 'Food and culture: in search of a Singapore cuisine.' They speak
about how different countries tend to have their own identifiable dishes and how globalisation of
the dishes have made them more distinguishable around the world. The likes of oriental food like
Pad Thai can now be easily identified as a dish coming from the culture of Thailand.
Food has been harnessed to social and political agendas. Many countries aspire to have an
identifiable and appealing cuisine comprising signature dishes which can be a nation building tool
and generator of civic pride ( Henderson 2014, cited Cusack, 2000), this highlighting the cultural
identification of dishes that, nowadays, is used as a social tool for many people around the world,
creating a form of globalisation that introduces these food cultures around the world.
With this being the view on food culture from Joan Henderson, we can compare this to Marie-
Cecile Cervellon and Laurette Dube's paper, 'Cultural influences in the origins of food likings and
dislikes'. This article highlights the reasoning for the liking or disliking of certain foods, based on
origin and using cross-cultural differences to highlight this. Although this is quite a different take on
food cultures than Henderson's paper, the point between the two that food cultures are very
distinguishable stands. Whilst Henderson (2014) spoke about countries wanting to globalise their
food and make it recognisable around the world and introduce their culture to other cultures, Dube
and Cervellon (2005) outline the reasons why people from certain origins in the world are more
adapt to certain types of food. Food attitudes are formed early in childhood and are reinforced by a
diversity of familial, social, and cultural influences (Dube and Cervellon 2005) therefore it depends
on our background on what types of food we are accustomed to. Introducing new food cultures to
our pallets can be a tough ask as we are so used to what we grew up with and as Dube and
Cervellon (2005) suggested it can be one of the most resilient habits (cited Rozin 1990).
Ronald Ranta's 'Food and Nationalism' (2015), follows the same sort of concept as Henderson's
paper, but in a different way. Ranta speaks about certain foods having a cultural identity. Following,
Henderson's theory of food being distinguishable dependent on their culture, Ranta (2015 pg. 44)
suggests that the national branding and labelling of food is found everywhere, conveying a
particular image of the nation. He clearly identifies in his study that certain foods can be identified
and correlated between that and the culture it derives from. For example, we can easily identify
couscous as being derived from the Moroccan culture, or, sushi being of Japanese origin. Further
towards the end of the article, Ranta starts to look more into the political side of cultural imagery
perceived through food, speaking about Hummus specifically and the 'Hummus War' between Israel
and Lebanon, Ranta (2015 pg 39) speaks about the “Hands off Our Dishes” campaign which was
intended to stop Israel from marketing hummus and other dishes as Israeli. This statement and
whole campaign shows the importance of food and the culture of origin in which it derived from as,
as stated by Henderson (2014), food is also shown to be a critical dimension of ethnic and national
identity and to have a heritage worthy of protection.
Methodology
In order to collect the relevant data I needed for this report, I adopted a netnographic approach to a
certain online community, with netnography being a widely accepted form of marketing research
(Rocca, A. Mandelli, A. Snehota, I. 2014), it was easy to adapt to this method and collect the data I
needed. The community in question was RedditFood on the popular social media site, Reddit. By
incorporating methods that I had taken from Kozinets' book 'Netnography: Redefined' I was able to
effectively pull the most relevant data that I needed for the research and then strip it down and
analysis it appropriately. Kozinets (2015, pg: 170) identified that the data collected must relate
directly to the research focus, therefore, I took this on board and identified my research focus,
which was the main themes and motivations for the community members to post photographs of
food into the community. Once I had decided on this being the focus I was able to incorporate
Kozinets' methods into the data collection phase of the study. Investigation and insights are the two
of the four ways in which netnographic data is created (Kozinets, 2015. pg:163), therefore, in order
to collect this data I had to take up an introspective approach to the community, sitting back and
analysing what was happening within it, constantly reading comments, viewing pictures that had
been posted, as well as starting to make my own judgements on the main themes in the community
itself. The more I observed the community and the more I analysed the data, stripping it down,
reading between the lines and getting a emotional feel for what was said, the more understanding I
had of the community which contributed to better data analysis as I knew what to look for. With
there being 415,000+ 'HungryHippos' (as they refer to themselves as) the collection of data was
intense as there were thousands of posts I had to sieve through on top of all the comments I had to
read in order to find the best possible data to help towards my research question. Once I had
eventually found the best data I could, through the methods adopted from Kozinets, I could then
analyse the data and start to come up with my conclusions.
Data Analysis
During the research stage I encountered many pieces of data that helped me identify the main
themes in the community, whether they were about food cultures, seeking for advice or just
generally showing off. For many of the community, the main theme I noticed was introducing new
cultures to the community through food. This is highlighted by the various Sub Reddits in the
community dedicated to the likes of Russian, Japanese, Oriental food etc... within the community I
witnessed many posts about foreign food that people had tried and wanted to share with the rest of
the community, thus initiating some envious responses from community members. Also, it seemed
to make people reminisce about previous experiences of a certain food culture.
This post on Reddit Food, about Ethiopian food, shows that one user is attempting to bring a new
food culture into the community, offering their first experience of Ethiopian food, and having it
greeted by some positive responses.
The top two comments we see on this thread are outlining the love and desire of Ethiopian food,
with 'M00n' sharing their opinion on Ethiopian food being 'the best food ever' and then stating what
their experiences with Ethiopian food, what they prefer. We can see the excitement and passion that
the post has created for 'M00n' the text seems to be fast paced as if they were shouting out, due to
their passion and excitement, the slang word 'OMG' (oh my god) defines this point.
Just underneath 'FlushSocketsAGAIN' reminisces about how good Ethiopian food is to them,
agreeing with 'M00n' with the choices of Ethiopian food they suggested. The reminiscence theme is
highlighted from them stating 'I'll never forget my first experience. We Kinda stumbled into it
somehow...' this comment just shows that the post has created them to remember the first time they
experienced Ethiopian food, the power of one post on the community, creates so many memories
for the community members. We can see how connected the community actually is in this bit of
data as they are always in agreement with one another, as we seen between 'M00n' and
'FlushSocketsAGAIN'.
As I revisited the post, to find more data, I came across more examples of the community
communicating with each other, with a range of different themes in the comments.
In this instance 'ravenclaw17' was seeking advice from the community on what they should try
when it comes to Ethiopian food, just a general question coming from someone who clearly is not
familiar with the culture. 'There are plenty of Ethiopian places in my area and I'm dying to try one
but I'm not sure what to order!' This bit of data outlines the theme of new food cultures bringing the
community together, as 'ravenclaw17' is intrigued by a new culture to them and desperately wants to
experience this 'amazing' new culture. Seeking advice by saying 'could anyone recommend some
safe orders?' calling upon the community to show their generous and family-like nature and help
them out.
The community vibe of them being one family, is highlighted through the few responses that
'ravenclaw17' received about what they should try, as the members kindly suggested
recommendations as to what they thought was best to order. The best response coming from an
Ethiopian themselves, responding respectfully, offering advice about their native food culture.
Making suggestions that were relevant to 'ravenclaw17's preferences, in terms of spice for example.
From deciphering just these few pieces of data, I noticed the themes of using new food cultures to
bring the community together creating a social catalyst, making other community members envious
of their posts, as well as the whole community being a giant family. Making an observation on the
community and the main theme, I would conclude that introducing different food cultures into the
community is the most out-standing theme, sharing their experiences of new cultures with one
another. This creates a range of emotions among the community members, whether it is excitement
or just using it as a social catalyst, the use of cultural food generates all of this.
Discussion and Conclusion
To conclude the whole report, I believe that the main theme within the community is using different
food cultures to form bonds with community members. From observing this community for the past
12 weeks, I noticed that introducing these food cultures sparked great excitement and inquisitive
reactions among the community, everyone was keen to learn more about these cultures. With
reference from Rheingold: The Virtual Community (1993) virtual communities are places where
people meet, I observed this during this study, many people within the Reddit community were
there just to interact and 'meet' new people who shared the same interests as them, in this instance,
food. The new social, or virtual, interactions between the community members then started to
contribute to the theme of excitement and passion, as these users were intensely discussing their
love for food, the way it looks, smells, tastes.
To start off, the data collection in the project was slow, as I did not really know where to look in the
community or what I was looking for, as well as not being able to identify main themes or concepts
within the community, it started off as quite a mess. Then my attention was turned to an article by
Alex Campbell, The Search For Authenticity, from 2006, a netnographic report on his findings from
a certain online community. This then gave me better knowledge of what to look out for in the
community, as well as giving me inspiration in how to analyse the data I collected.
From there on in I knew what to look for and then how to analyse it, using this knowledge I had
obtained I then started to grab every bit of qualitative data I could get my hands on, then reading the
comments and starting to analyse what I had found. As well as this, Kozinets' methods of data
collection pointed me in the right direction in terms of properly analysing the data I had obtained.
This understanding enabled me to open my eyes up to the true nature of the digital world as, with it
being part of every day life, I didn't appreciate it as much as I do now. The internet and social media
has a real power of connecting people and giving people a place to escape to and enabling them to
fit in with people who are pretty similar to themselves, as I have seen observing the Reddit
community.
Finaly, reading the articles from Ranta (2015), Catherine Henderson(2014) and Cervellon and Dube
(2005) has also gave me a better insight into the culture of food and how important it actually is to
the country of origin. I have seen that these concepts are abundant in the Reddit community as you
see many people who derive from a certain culture flaunt and take pride in their cultures food. The
whole idea of food is much more than look, taste, smell etc... it's a nations and a cultures pride. This
experience has been incredible for me overall.
Appendices
Campbell, A. (2006). The search for authenticity: An exploration of an online skinhead
newsgroup.New Media & Society, 8(2), pp.269-294.
Catherine Henderson, J. (2014). Food and culture: in search of a Singapore cuisine. British Food
Journal, 116(6), pp.904-917.
Cervellon, M. and Dubé, L. (2005). Cultural influences in the origins of food likings and
dislikes.Food Quality and Preference, 16(5), pp.455-460.
Kozinets, R. (2015) Netnography: Redefined.: Sage Publications.
La Rocca, A., Mandelli, A. and Snehota, I. (2014). Netnography approach as a tool for marketing
research: the case of Dash-P&G/TTV. Management Decision, 52(4), pp.689-704.
Ranta, R. (2015). Food & Nationalism: From Foie Gras to Hummus. World Policy Journal, 32(3),
pp.33-40.
Rheingold, H. (1993). The virtual community. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.

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Report

  • 1. Netnographic Research report- The Reddit Food Community: What are the themes within the community?
  • 2. Contents 3. Introduction 3-4. Literature Review 4. Methodology 5-6. Data Analysis 7. Discussion and Conclusion 8. Appendices
  • 3. Introduction This report presents a netnographic study of an online food community, being RedditFood, with the aim of identifying what themes and reasoning motivated the community members into uploading certain photographs of food to the community, more specifically a category called 'Food Porn'. The social media site, Reddit, was chosen due to the high level of activity among this specific community, enabling me to analyse a high amount of data daily, whilst observing the specific trends in the community, that would help me with the research. When collecting the relevant data needed for the research, I referred to Kozinets' Netnography: Redefined (2015), using the investigation and insight aspects, that are mentioned in the book, in order to create this netnographic data. To do so I had to sit back, observe the community, the photographs and the comments posted and use the aspects from Kozinets to pull the relevant data I needed. In doing this I noticed that there were a few concepts within this community. First off, I noticed that there was a theme of bringing different food cultures into the community, being able to share different experiences with one another, creating a social catalyst between members. With this catalyst in place it led to people networking within the community, bringing people together and bonding over these culutural experiences. Also, there is a concept of creating envy of others, making them jealous (not maliciously), within the community. Using the photographs of food that they have eaten or made, that are indulgent and fall under the category of 'Food Porn' in order to make the other community members jealous of them in that particular moment. Literature Review With the main focus of this study being about different food cultures and how the internet is used to introduce people to new food cultures, I focused on articles that coincided with this theme. The use of food cultures is now used as some sort of social catalyst, especially among online users, whether they post a photograph of a new experience to them or they recommend a new type of food culture to a friend, different cultural origins of food is a huge theme in our lives now. Joan Henderson (2014) highlighted the relationship that is created through food and culture and the social impacts it has in the paper 'Food and culture: in search of a Singapore cuisine.' They speak about how different countries tend to have their own identifiable dishes and how globalisation of the dishes have made them more distinguishable around the world. The likes of oriental food like Pad Thai can now be easily identified as a dish coming from the culture of Thailand. Food has been harnessed to social and political agendas. Many countries aspire to have an identifiable and appealing cuisine comprising signature dishes which can be a nation building tool and generator of civic pride ( Henderson 2014, cited Cusack, 2000), this highlighting the cultural identification of dishes that, nowadays, is used as a social tool for many people around the world, creating a form of globalisation that introduces these food cultures around the world. With this being the view on food culture from Joan Henderson, we can compare this to Marie- Cecile Cervellon and Laurette Dube's paper, 'Cultural influences in the origins of food likings and dislikes'. This article highlights the reasoning for the liking or disliking of certain foods, based on origin and using cross-cultural differences to highlight this. Although this is quite a different take on food cultures than Henderson's paper, the point between the two that food cultures are very distinguishable stands. Whilst Henderson (2014) spoke about countries wanting to globalise their food and make it recognisable around the world and introduce their culture to other cultures, Dube and Cervellon (2005) outline the reasons why people from certain origins in the world are more adapt to certain types of food. Food attitudes are formed early in childhood and are reinforced by a diversity of familial, social, and cultural influences (Dube and Cervellon 2005) therefore it depends on our background on what types of food we are accustomed to. Introducing new food cultures to our pallets can be a tough ask as we are so used to what we grew up with and as Dube and
  • 4. Cervellon (2005) suggested it can be one of the most resilient habits (cited Rozin 1990). Ronald Ranta's 'Food and Nationalism' (2015), follows the same sort of concept as Henderson's paper, but in a different way. Ranta speaks about certain foods having a cultural identity. Following, Henderson's theory of food being distinguishable dependent on their culture, Ranta (2015 pg. 44) suggests that the national branding and labelling of food is found everywhere, conveying a particular image of the nation. He clearly identifies in his study that certain foods can be identified and correlated between that and the culture it derives from. For example, we can easily identify couscous as being derived from the Moroccan culture, or, sushi being of Japanese origin. Further towards the end of the article, Ranta starts to look more into the political side of cultural imagery perceived through food, speaking about Hummus specifically and the 'Hummus War' between Israel and Lebanon, Ranta (2015 pg 39) speaks about the “Hands off Our Dishes” campaign which was intended to stop Israel from marketing hummus and other dishes as Israeli. This statement and whole campaign shows the importance of food and the culture of origin in which it derived from as, as stated by Henderson (2014), food is also shown to be a critical dimension of ethnic and national identity and to have a heritage worthy of protection. Methodology In order to collect the relevant data I needed for this report, I adopted a netnographic approach to a certain online community, with netnography being a widely accepted form of marketing research (Rocca, A. Mandelli, A. Snehota, I. 2014), it was easy to adapt to this method and collect the data I needed. The community in question was RedditFood on the popular social media site, Reddit. By incorporating methods that I had taken from Kozinets' book 'Netnography: Redefined' I was able to effectively pull the most relevant data that I needed for the research and then strip it down and analysis it appropriately. Kozinets (2015, pg: 170) identified that the data collected must relate directly to the research focus, therefore, I took this on board and identified my research focus, which was the main themes and motivations for the community members to post photographs of food into the community. Once I had decided on this being the focus I was able to incorporate Kozinets' methods into the data collection phase of the study. Investigation and insights are the two of the four ways in which netnographic data is created (Kozinets, 2015. pg:163), therefore, in order to collect this data I had to take up an introspective approach to the community, sitting back and analysing what was happening within it, constantly reading comments, viewing pictures that had been posted, as well as starting to make my own judgements on the main themes in the community itself. The more I observed the community and the more I analysed the data, stripping it down, reading between the lines and getting a emotional feel for what was said, the more understanding I had of the community which contributed to better data analysis as I knew what to look for. With there being 415,000+ 'HungryHippos' (as they refer to themselves as) the collection of data was intense as there were thousands of posts I had to sieve through on top of all the comments I had to read in order to find the best possible data to help towards my research question. Once I had eventually found the best data I could, through the methods adopted from Kozinets, I could then analyse the data and start to come up with my conclusions.
  • 5. Data Analysis During the research stage I encountered many pieces of data that helped me identify the main themes in the community, whether they were about food cultures, seeking for advice or just generally showing off. For many of the community, the main theme I noticed was introducing new cultures to the community through food. This is highlighted by the various Sub Reddits in the community dedicated to the likes of Russian, Japanese, Oriental food etc... within the community I witnessed many posts about foreign food that people had tried and wanted to share with the rest of the community, thus initiating some envious responses from community members. Also, it seemed to make people reminisce about previous experiences of a certain food culture. This post on Reddit Food, about Ethiopian food, shows that one user is attempting to bring a new food culture into the community, offering their first experience of Ethiopian food, and having it greeted by some positive responses. The top two comments we see on this thread are outlining the love and desire of Ethiopian food, with 'M00n' sharing their opinion on Ethiopian food being 'the best food ever' and then stating what their experiences with Ethiopian food, what they prefer. We can see the excitement and passion that the post has created for 'M00n' the text seems to be fast paced as if they were shouting out, due to their passion and excitement, the slang word 'OMG' (oh my god) defines this point. Just underneath 'FlushSocketsAGAIN' reminisces about how good Ethiopian food is to them, agreeing with 'M00n' with the choices of Ethiopian food they suggested. The reminiscence theme is highlighted from them stating 'I'll never forget my first experience. We Kinda stumbled into it somehow...' this comment just shows that the post has created them to remember the first time they experienced Ethiopian food, the power of one post on the community, creates so many memories for the community members. We can see how connected the community actually is in this bit of data as they are always in agreement with one another, as we seen between 'M00n' and 'FlushSocketsAGAIN'.
  • 6. As I revisited the post, to find more data, I came across more examples of the community communicating with each other, with a range of different themes in the comments. In this instance 'ravenclaw17' was seeking advice from the community on what they should try when it comes to Ethiopian food, just a general question coming from someone who clearly is not familiar with the culture. 'There are plenty of Ethiopian places in my area and I'm dying to try one but I'm not sure what to order!' This bit of data outlines the theme of new food cultures bringing the community together, as 'ravenclaw17' is intrigued by a new culture to them and desperately wants to experience this 'amazing' new culture. Seeking advice by saying 'could anyone recommend some safe orders?' calling upon the community to show their generous and family-like nature and help them out. The community vibe of them being one family, is highlighted through the few responses that 'ravenclaw17' received about what they should try, as the members kindly suggested recommendations as to what they thought was best to order. The best response coming from an Ethiopian themselves, responding respectfully, offering advice about their native food culture. Making suggestions that were relevant to 'ravenclaw17's preferences, in terms of spice for example. From deciphering just these few pieces of data, I noticed the themes of using new food cultures to bring the community together creating a social catalyst, making other community members envious of their posts, as well as the whole community being a giant family. Making an observation on the community and the main theme, I would conclude that introducing different food cultures into the community is the most out-standing theme, sharing their experiences of new cultures with one another. This creates a range of emotions among the community members, whether it is excitement or just using it as a social catalyst, the use of cultural food generates all of this.
  • 7. Discussion and Conclusion To conclude the whole report, I believe that the main theme within the community is using different food cultures to form bonds with community members. From observing this community for the past 12 weeks, I noticed that introducing these food cultures sparked great excitement and inquisitive reactions among the community, everyone was keen to learn more about these cultures. With reference from Rheingold: The Virtual Community (1993) virtual communities are places where people meet, I observed this during this study, many people within the Reddit community were there just to interact and 'meet' new people who shared the same interests as them, in this instance, food. The new social, or virtual, interactions between the community members then started to contribute to the theme of excitement and passion, as these users were intensely discussing their love for food, the way it looks, smells, tastes. To start off, the data collection in the project was slow, as I did not really know where to look in the community or what I was looking for, as well as not being able to identify main themes or concepts within the community, it started off as quite a mess. Then my attention was turned to an article by Alex Campbell, The Search For Authenticity, from 2006, a netnographic report on his findings from a certain online community. This then gave me better knowledge of what to look out for in the community, as well as giving me inspiration in how to analyse the data I collected. From there on in I knew what to look for and then how to analyse it, using this knowledge I had obtained I then started to grab every bit of qualitative data I could get my hands on, then reading the comments and starting to analyse what I had found. As well as this, Kozinets' methods of data collection pointed me in the right direction in terms of properly analysing the data I had obtained. This understanding enabled me to open my eyes up to the true nature of the digital world as, with it being part of every day life, I didn't appreciate it as much as I do now. The internet and social media has a real power of connecting people and giving people a place to escape to and enabling them to fit in with people who are pretty similar to themselves, as I have seen observing the Reddit community. Finaly, reading the articles from Ranta (2015), Catherine Henderson(2014) and Cervellon and Dube (2005) has also gave me a better insight into the culture of food and how important it actually is to the country of origin. I have seen that these concepts are abundant in the Reddit community as you see many people who derive from a certain culture flaunt and take pride in their cultures food. The whole idea of food is much more than look, taste, smell etc... it's a nations and a cultures pride. This experience has been incredible for me overall.
  • 8. Appendices Campbell, A. (2006). The search for authenticity: An exploration of an online skinhead newsgroup.New Media & Society, 8(2), pp.269-294. Catherine Henderson, J. (2014). Food and culture: in search of a Singapore cuisine. British Food Journal, 116(6), pp.904-917. Cervellon, M. and Dubé, L. (2005). Cultural influences in the origins of food likings and dislikes.Food Quality and Preference, 16(5), pp.455-460. Kozinets, R. (2015) Netnography: Redefined.: Sage Publications. La Rocca, A., Mandelli, A. and Snehota, I. (2014). Netnography approach as a tool for marketing research: the case of Dash-P&G/TTV. Management Decision, 52(4), pp.689-704. Ranta, R. (2015). Food & Nationalism: From Foie Gras to Hummus. World Policy Journal, 32(3), pp.33-40. Rheingold, H. (1993). The virtual community. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.