Monash University

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Consumption through an ideological lens an exploration of sustainable frames within the dominant social paradigm

Version 2 2017-05-19, 03:19
Version 1 2017-01-17, 05:41
posted on 2017-05-19, 03:19 authored by Phipps, Marcus James
This thesis investigates ideological change in Melbourne's household water marketplace. Drawing from consumer culture theory, macromarketing, anti-consumption and social marketing literature, the research explored a paradigm shift that occurred in how individuals used and consumed water. Using a grounded theory approach, data collection involved historic secondary sources, newspaper articles, Google Trends, photographs, field notes as well as in-depth interviews with three groups of respondents. These respondents included seven experts from the water industry, three innovator consumers who used minimal mains water and 26 mainstream consumers who had made smaller but significant reductions in their water consumption. Analysis used constant comparing and contrasting, with a number of theories found to resonate with the developing frameworks. It emerged from the findings that the dominant social paradigm of the marketplace inhibited the use of alternative water sources to the mains water supply. However, severe drought was revealed to have provided a significant shock to the marketplace, which had shifted this paradigm. A metaphoric analysis enabled the research to uncover the innovators' cultural frames, and illustrated how the individual barriers the innovators had encountered, led to these respondents seeking to communicate solutions to the wider marketplace. Framing theory distilled how the innovators' alternative ideological frames resonated with collectives of mainstream consumers. From a macro perspective the findings illustrated how drought, law, education, public discourse and marketing, contributed to a reduction in the average household water consumption in Melbourne. The antecedents of the marketplace interplayed with one another to enable and reinforce this change in the dominant social paradigm. Contributing to transformative consumer research this study used theoretically driven research to solve practical problems.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Jan Brace-Govan

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Business and Economics

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