Associate Professor Ashlee Humphreys studies the role of institutions in markets. She received her PhD in Marketing in 2008 from Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University with a focus on Cultural Sociology. Her dissertation research examined how markets are created through shifts in social structure using the case of casino gambling in America. This research was selected as a lead article in the Journal of Marketing and was runner up for the Maynard Award for best paper in Marketing. Humphreys also won the Sidney J. Levy award in 2010 for the contribution of her dissertation research to Consumer Culture Theory.
Since her work on legitimacy, Humphreys has applied the institutional theory approach to study sustainability as a cultural discourse and set of institutional practices. Her research in this area examines the emergence of sustainability from previous forms of environmentalism, the role of media discourse in shaping consumer perceptions of oil spills, and the ways in which sustainability is interpreted differently according to differences in social class.
Professor Humphreys' current research focuses on social media and online communities. She is the author of Social Media: Enduring Principles (Oxford University Press, 2016), a review and synthesis of the empirical social science research on social media. Her research on social media includes a project looks at the development of norms and institutions on Wikipedia and another project assesses the creation of value on YouTube. Lastly, she is interested developing theories for understanding fundamental consumer institutions such as ownership. Her work in this area proposes that consumption can be viewed in terms of access rather than ownership, a model that is useful for understanding the ways in which consumers use media properties and shared resources.
In all of this work, she has developed and refined the method of automated content analysis, or using computers to analyze textual data after thorough qualitative analysis, a method she helped introduce to Marketing.