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Smart consumers come undone: breakdowns in the process of digital agencing

Journal article
Authors Christian Fuentes
Published in Journal of Marketing Management
Volume 35
Issue 15-16
Pages 1542-1562
ISSN 0267-257X
Publication year 2019
Published at Centre for Consumer Science
Pages 1542-1562
Language en
Keywords Digitalisation, smartphones, consumer, market studies, ethical, consumption, agencing, ethical consumption, use smartphones, market, sustainability, online, apps, ethnography, internet, devices
Subject categories Business Administration


While digitalisation is a widespread technological, social and economic process, shaping markets and consumers, not all efforts to produce digitalised smart consumers are successful. The aim of this paper is to explore and explain failures in the digital agencing of consumers. Making use of the market studies literature on consumer agencing, and drawing on an ethnographic study of ethical shopping apps, the paper explores how as well as under what conditions efforts to enact smart ethical shoppers fail. Results show that it is the immutability of apps that leads to breakdowns in the process of digital agencing. While these apps were scripted to configure consumers, they can seldom be configured by consumers. Because of this, the apps could not be adjusted to specific situations and consumer-assemblages.

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