Event Date/Time: Aug 24, 2005 End Date/Time: Aug 25, 2005
Registration Date: May 16, 2005
Abstract Submission Date: Mar 31, 2005
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Conference background

This is the first independent UK conference which aims to look at the cultural, social and economic aspects of eBay. As such, this e-mail asks for early expressions of interest in attending, as well as being a call for papers and posters, in order to gauge the demand for this one-off conference. The idea for this conference originated from an ongoing ESRC
project (RES-000-23-0433) at Chimera, a department of the University of Essex, which began in February 2004 and is due to end in January 2006. Results of this research project will be disseminated at the conference.

The overall aim of this conference is to bring together academics, and practitioner groups from both business and the voluntary sector, to
explore and ‘make sense’ of the cultural, social and economic aspects and implications of eBay, the Internet auction site.

Background to eBay

This conference explores a phenomenally successful form of e-commerce, the Internet auction. Specifically, the conference will concentrate on one such Internet auction site, eBay - chosen for its market dominance. With
70% of all online auctions currently taking place through its site(Rowley, 2000), eBay represents ‘the world's largest personal online
trading community’. Initially set up in 1995 with collectors in mind, eBay enabled easier access to collectibles (vid. Bunnel and Luecke, 2000)- where the traditional inefficiencies of person-to-person trading such as geographical fragmentation and imperfect knowledge (ibid.) could be offset through computer-mediated communication (CMC). Dubbed “the perfect store”
(Cohen, 2002), its success has been phenomenal both in financial terms and in the number of users it has attracted. Indeed, eBay is fast becoming an e-commerce mainstay and household name with 125 million registered users
worldwide (eBay, 2004), and it is now the UK’s number one e-commerce site(Nielsen Net Ratings, May 2003 cited eBay, 2004). Online auction sites have revolutionised the way we browse and shop for second-hand, antique and collectible items. However, they also provide new ways and new spaces to perform and display knowledges and ‘knowingness,’ particularly in relation to material culture.

eBay differs substantially from almost every other ‘virtual store’ or e-commerce site in carrying a stock of mostly second-hand items, which are described and loaded on to a database by thousands of individual sellers themselves. Accordingly, very contrasting consumer and collecting knowledges are brought to bear on such items than for mainstream new goods e-tailing. eBay is also a highly unusual site in the way that ‘communities’ are enabled and identities performed through the site’s own community spaces (discussions around topic threads and asynchronous chat boards) - mediated by material culture in buying, selling and
browsing practices. Yet eBay remains largely unexplored by the academic literature beyond its reputation (feedback) system, particularly in terms of the key issues it raises around knowledge, identity, community and collecting practices in an e-society. This conference seeks to redress these gaps in the literature. But eBay also has considerable relevance
for government and practitioner groups. The research will raise key issues for government and policy surrounding the potential for eBay to be a source of self-employment, particularly for ‘disadvantaged’ groups or those requiring flexible work, and increasingly important consumer issues such as the misselling of goods and the growing problem of fraudulent
behaviour over the Internet. eBay additionally has significant implications for UK economic competitiveness in terms of the practices,
structures and systems architecture of e-commerce, which include web site design and the distribution systems for both goods and money in an Internet era.

Who should attend

Academics in the fields of (but not exclusively): new media, e-commerce,
cultural studies, sociology, human geography, HCI

Practitioners in relevant fields

Research students

Industry consultants

Keynote speakers:

Dr Rebecca Ellis and Anna Haywood, University of Essex



Mr Will Davies, IPPR


Dr Tim Dant, UEA (tbc)


Others tbc.

Conference themes

The conference themes have been written in order to accommodate the interests of both academics and practitioner groups. Although papers and
presentations could address the following themes, submissions should not be limited to the themes suggested. See the conference website (Conference themes and scope section) for an outline of potential research questions that could be addressed under each theme.

eBay and identity: the presentation of self/ others and knowledge performance

• Significance (or not) of members’ eBay user names.

• Presentation of self through item description, photography and buying/ selling practices

• eBay 'claims to status' and disidentification practices

• Knowledge performance and presentation

• Knowledge giving

• 'Unknowingness'

• How do eBay sellers present themselves, others and material culture in terms of discourses of ‘race,’ nation or Diaspora?

eBay and social capital

• eBay and 'community'

• eBay and the development of social capital

• eBay & trust

eBay, consumption and consumer lifestyles

• eBay and its effects on other disposal routes: charity shops, throwing away, relegating to the attic

• eBay as a place to get rid of unwanted gifts

• eBay and 'minimalist living' – e.g. de-junking one’s life

• eBay as ethical consumption? Recycling’ to second owners.

• eBay as a 'weird' or spectacular site of alternative consumption

• eBay as a societal mirror in terms of what is being bought and sold

• eBay as a store of social memory in material culture – e.g. ‘memory artefacts,’ nostalgia

Collecting in an e-society

• The impact of eBay on offline collecting practices/ rituals

• eBay and globalised collecting - the world of goods

• eBay and the ease of ‘armchair collecting’

• The effect of eBay on specific collecting cultures and communities

eBay and employment effects

• What impact is eBay having on self-employment in the UK?

• Who does an eBay living appeal to?

• What impact is eBay having on other forms of employment?

• Is eBay creating new types of jobs?

• Is eBay a good place to start trading for the newly self-employed?

• eBay as a supplementary source of income

• Is eBay a good medium for selling services?

eBay, competition and the 'perfect market'

• Does eBay really constitute the economists' 'perfect market'?

• Is eBay creating new markets?

• eBay and competition

• eBay’s business model

eBay and the 'real' economy

• Money flows

• National postal services and other goods distribution networks

• Internet infrastructure – Broadband vs. dial up

eBay and website design

• Designing e-commerce sites: what makes eBay sticky?

• Designing e-commerce sites to support trustworthiness

• How effective is eBay’s feedback system?

eBay and the consumer

• eBay and consumer privacy

• eBay and consumer protection issues

Representations of eBay

• How has eBay been represented in the media?

• How do eBay’s customers perceive it – through practice and media representation?


Wivenhoe Park
United Kingdom

Additional Information

Please see the conference website for full information about submitting papers and posters, as well as conference fees.