For two decades Robert E. Weems, Jr. has been studying interrelated aspects of African-American business and economic history at levels both local and national. The MU professor of History observes that the history of black economic development in Columbia, Missouri, with its once-thriving black business district, stands as a microcosm of national trends. “For a variety of social and economic reasons,” he notes, “we literally see black businesses disappearing from the landscape of America.” Weems’ first book, Black Business in Black Metropolis: The Chicago Metropolitan Assurance Company, 1925-1985 (1996), based on his dissertation research, explored the factors underlying this change. The history of this now-defunct black insurance company in Chicago has implications for the economics of race in America in general.
There are some people in the online world who prove to be more influential than others in terms of the information they provide to the public. For example, exclusive and time-sensitive price data or reviews of new products are the types of information that these third-party individuals seem motivated, even compelled, to offer to as many people as possible. Much to the initial annoyance of companies, such information bears importantly on influencing actual purchasing behavior.
“One of the scariest things I found in researching Desegregating the Dollar was that as early as the 1930s,” explains Weems, “corporate marketers figured out that black people had an especially acute case of status anxiety” because of their particular history of slavery. Weems’ current project reacts against the conspicuous consumption celebrated in the realm of hip-hop as “bling-bling.”
Fast-paced changes—the dynamic nature of the online purchasing world.
“Marketing Mavericks”—people who exercise a new kind of power in the online world by influencing consumer behavior online. How people use this online information from specific purchasing websites (such as Amazon.com), where people post reviews of products and where other people read those reviews as part of their decision-making process. Research methods: using the internet to unobtrusively gather data about people’s real behavior, prior to more direct investigation by questionnaire or interview.