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Ethical consumption applications as failed market innovations: exploring consumer (non) acceptance of ‘quasi’ market devices

Journal article
Authors Niklas Sörum
Published in Journal of Cultural Economy
Volume 13
Issue 1
Pages 91-113
ISSN 17530350
Publication year 2020
Published at Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI)
Centre for Consumer Science
Pages 91-113
Language en
Keywords Consumer Culture Theory, Ethical Consumption, Market Innovation, Science and Technology Studies, Smartphone App
Subject categories Ethnology, Business Administration


The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. In this paper, I conceptualise ethical consumption applications (ECAs) as market innovations inflected in processes of configuring market actors and market (re)framings. The introduction of ECAs through the work of civil society is not only about changing frames of market exchange, but also work in the register of making ‘good consumers’ and consumers as ‘agents of change’ and moralising markets. Thus, a more accurate concept for these devices is suggested: ‘quasi’ market devices. The main aim of this paper is to analyse how consumers attached to and resisted use of ECAs designed to assist in product choices and shape responsible everyday practices. Based on qualitative fieldwork in Sweden, the article applies a methodology grounded in Science and Technology-inspired market studies in combination with Consumer Culture Theory’s (CCT) interest in identity work and sense-making associated with technology consumption. Although available at the time of the empirical data collection period of the study, all three apps were off the market during the analytic work of this paper; a major argument for focusing on barriers to acceptance of the apps and trying to conceptualise how such non-acceptance can be understood.

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