Haggling and ‘fairness’ in the Internet of Secondhand Things

Siobhan Magee, Design Ethnography, Design Informatics

Thursday 27th March 4pm T-Room, 1st Floor Evo House

Which idioms and practices do people in Manchester use to talk about and/or construct the respective values of technologies, secondhand things, and social relations? What does it mean for smartphone-enabled practices to inspire designs in which smartphones are only minimally involved?

This paper discusses the ethnographic research and subsequent design sprints in Manchester charity shops that constituted the Haggle-o-tron, one part of the Internet of Secondhand Things project. Drawing upon recent work emphasising the significance of ‘fairness’ as a ‘mobilising metaphor’ (Smith 2012: 86), the paper discusses how ‘haggling down’ the prices of secondhand goods shows fairness to encompass two distinct but sometimes overlapping principles: consistency and contingency. What, in turn, might these principles mean for design?

Siobhan Magee is a Research Associate in Ethnography on the Internet of Secondhand Things project.

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