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Thesis Defense
Luxury Consumption Practices in the Digital Age:
Prosumers and Lurkers on Visual Social Media.

Marina Leban - PhD candidate in the PhD programme ESCP

Marina Leban, PhD candidate in the PhD programme ESCP, will publicly defend her PhD thesis in Management Sciences.

8 July 2020 – 10:30 a.m. (CEST)
ESCP Business School Campus République

Attend the Defense


With the transition to liquid modernity, and the acceleration of society due to the high production and consumption of new content through new media technologies such as social media, social hierarchies seem to be more fragmented, unstable, ephemeral and changing.

The liquidification of society thus allows for new forms of status games and distinction that are not necessarily tied to family history or level of education. Indeed, this can be seen in the rise of a ‘new elite’, who, contrary to the old elite that was primarily defined by their economic capital, is defined by the acquisition of knowledge and culture.

To this end, research still needs to be done to uncover new forms of luxury consumption practices in a digitalized and liquid society, taking place on social media platforms. To address this gap, this thesis therefore looks at the luxury consumption practices of the specific segment of high-end luxury consumers (prosumers), as well as their social media. Specifically, it looks at how these define, display and consume luxury on the visual social media platform called Instagram.

Article 1 explores, through a content analysis and netnography, how wealthy micro-celebrities use personal branding strategies to create and display luxury meaning on Instagram.

Article 2 further explores findings from Article 1, by interviewing and analyzing Instagram data of wealthy social media influencers, to understand how they now view luxury and what kind of strategies they use on Instagram to justify their luxurious lifestyle as being ‘ethical’ – as opposed to other influencers who exhibit unethical consumer behavior by displaying an overly conspicuous, wasteful form of luxury.

Article 3 takes a different approach by investigating how lurkers, as opposed to prosumers (Article 1 & 2), digitally and virtually consume luxury related content on Instagram.;

This thesis by articles has a threefold contribution to the literature:

  • (1) to expand theoretical understanding of new conspicuous consumption strategies of upperclass (or elite) consumers in asserting their social status and distinction online,
  • (2) to better understand the dematerialization of luxury and stressing how consumption experiences, rather than the ownership of products, are thus considered to be status symbols,
  • (3) to highlight the contribution to growing literature on morality in luxury consumption, showing that old elite individuals pursue both distinction-seeking, and at the same time authenticity-seeking when portraying themselves publicly.



  • Mr Benjamin G. Voyer,
    Professor, ESCP Business School


  • Mrs Delphine Dion,
    Professor, ESSEC Business School
  • Mrs Margherita Pagani,
    Professor, EMLyon Business School


  • Mr Yuri Seo,
    Associate Professor, University of Auckland
  • Mr Luca M. Visconti,
    Professor, Università della Svizzera Italiana