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Agencing ethical consumers: smartphone apps and the socio-material reconfiguration of everyday life

Journal article
Authors Christian Fuentes
Niklas Sörum
Published in Consumption Markets and Culture
Volume 22
Issue 2
Pages 131-156
ISSN 1025-3866
Publication year 2019
Published at Centre for Consumer Science
Pages 131-156
Language en
Keywords consumption device, digital, Ethical consumption, materiality, smartphone, sustainability
Subject categories Ethnology, Business Administration


© 2018 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group The aim of this paper is to describe and explain how smartphone apps, designed to assist consumers in making informed ethical choices and greening their everyday practices, enable and shape ethical consumption. Taking a socio-material approach and drawing on an ethnographic study of three ethical consumption apps – the Green guide, the Fair trade app and Shopgun – the paper shows that these digital devices are scripted to hybridize with consumers and facilitate key ethical consumer actions. When consumers follow the scripts of these apps, using them in everyday practices, the apps put pressure on consumers to act “ethically” by problematizing consumption in various ways while also, and simultaneously, endowing them with the agential capacities required to solve these problems. Consequently, these devices both motivate consumers and enable ethical consumption, producing, under the right conditions, capable and self-reflexive ethical consumer hybrids.

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