IMCA Research Seminar - Liz McFall, University of Edinburgh: Space is a market device: #CovidArcadia and the pandemic conditions of emergence of digital-affective premises


Institute of Marketing and Communication Management

Date: 26 October 2023 / 12:30 - 13:30


Space is a market device: #CovidArcadia and the pandemic conditions of emergence of digital-affective premises
Kath Bassett, Elif Buse Doyuran, Liz McFall, Addie McGowan


Liz McFall is Director of Data Civics in the Edinburgh Futures Institute and a Chancellor’s Fellow (Associate Professor) based in Sociology. She is an interdisciplinary sociologist with research interests that cross the social studies of insurance, cultural economy and market studies. Her recent research explores historical, spatial and infrastructural connections between institutional investment, urban governance and everyday social life. This informs the Data Civics programme and its emphasis on using digital ethnography to investigate the social, political, cultural and economic dimensions of civic planning and placemaking. Liz is founding editor of the Journal of Cultural Economy. She has published several articles in journals including Economy and SocietySociological ReviewScience, Technology and Human Value and Big Data and Society and is the author of Devising Consumption: cultural economies of insurance, credit and spending (Routledge 2014) Advertising: a cultural economy (Sage 2004) and the edited collection Markets and the Arts of Attachment (Routledge 2017).


This paper draws on a mixed-method project that explored retail market encounters in Edinburgh during the pandemic. It borrows from Walter Benjamin’s methodological and conceptual approach in the arcades project to explore how online settings, notably Instagram, function as market spaces. Arcades, for Benjamin, work by using their architecture to create atmospheres conducive to specific actions – lingering, browsing and purchasing. Arcades and Instagram share material and technical features that are orchestrated to shape action and in this both parallel the functions of ‘market devices’. The significance of space, as an element in ‘the equipment and devices’ which give market ‘action a shape’ has long been acknowledged in market studies (Callon 1998: 22) but how retail space works to devise action has had little attention. In describing how Instagram provided ‘digital-affective premises’ during the pandemic we advance three broader propositions. First, that market spaces are necessarily market devices because they are designed to produce action. Second, that while scholarship has exposed the material and technical elements of market devices, it had said much less about their sentimental or affective elements. Finally, that market spaces showcase how technical-sentimental, digital-affective elements interact in giving action its shape.