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Durham e-Theses
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The Digital Transformation of Marketer Identities
in Figured Worlds

DUECK, KELLY (2022) The Digital Transformation of Marketer Identities
in Figured Worlds.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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The digital transformation of marketing has been ongoing for more than three decades but the
breadth and depth of change in the last five years has been unprecedented. We know from
extensive research on identities in organisations that change in work practices can prompt
identity work, yet there has been relatively little prior research about marketer identities.
Moreover, there has been even less research about marketer identities relating to digital
transformation. This thesis addresses these gaps; however, it does so by looking at the
intersection of marketer identities and digital transformation via a Pragmatist reading of Holland
et al.’s (1998) concept of Figured Worlds, a social practice theory of identity with roots in
Vygotsky, Bakhtin, Mead, and Bourdieu. This approach enabled the study of processes of
transformation in relation to the various artefacts which make up figured worlds, such as
vocabularies, practices, and materialities which come together to construct understandings about
‘how things work’ or what is considered ‘normal’ by the people who inhabit them. The main
body of the thesis centres on an ethnographically-oriented case study of the marketing
department of a large Canadian NGO (Canango) in the process of shifting from a traditional
‘NGO helper’ culture to a so-called ‘Agile marketing’ culture based on project management
practices originating in software development that have been growing in popularity among
practitioners. The thesis identifies a number of ‘classes’ of marketer identities: managerially
supplied ; technologically afforded ; socially afforded ; emergent ; and, performed along with what
each type enables one to do. Using ideas from Figured Worlds theory and multimodal discourse
analysis, a heuristic framework is then developed made of the elements ‘ matter ’ (phenomena),
‘ meaning ’, mediators , ‘ me ’ (identity) and ‘ motion ’ (action) to study how these identities are
used to accomplish contextual goals. This framework is then applied to study the way that three people variously appropriated or resisted a particular supplied identity: the ‘Agile organiser’.
Finally the ideas developed through the first three phases of the thesis are applied in a final phase
in which Canango begins using a new digital collaborative work platform. The study looks at the
identity implications of this move, evidencing the ways in which the work platform serves as a
‘bridge’ between worlds and how such bridges may be used to change worlds and make new

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:marketer identities;marketing management;agile marketing;digital transformation;identity work;figured worlds
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Business > Management and Marketing, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:31 Oct 2022 12:50

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