From racks to captchas

Exploring the use and regulation of worker-focused automation technologies in second-hand online fashion marketplaces.

Mixed Methods Research to Understand how online communities build on technical infrastructures.

Methods

Grounded Research, Ethnographic approaches, In depth semi-structured interviews, Participant Observation, Qualitative Coding, Discourse analysis on Forum data, Surveys, Statistical analysis.

Tools

Webex, Qualtrics, Computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software

Team

Sara Milkes Espinosa (Individual project), Advised by Christopher Le Dantec (Digital Media and HCC, Robert Rosenberger (Public Policy), Carl Disalvo (HCC), Anne Sullivan (Digital Media)

Duration

End of 2019 to present

Project Description

Poshmark is an online reselling platform for second hand fashion that has been recently gaining popularity among platforms of the same kind. It offers a social retail model where buyers and sellers create public facing profiles and customize their ‘closets’ of clothing inventory they will sell. They connect to other buyers and sellers (‘follow’ their closets) and get item recommendations on their feed. Poshmark’s algorithm displays items depending on the ways sellers ‘share’ their own items and interact with other users.

 

According to the company’s survey, most resellers and buyers are women, some of whom derive their incomes fully from Poshmark. I have been doing ethnographic research with US-based resellers on the Poshmark platform since 2019, with my site of analysis progressively extending to other platforms such as Facebook Marketplace, Depop, Mercari, etc. My research is aimed at generally better understanding the motivations of these communities for using automation and other digital tools, their ways of engaging with each other and sharing skills, and how they work around the platforms restrictions, design and technical affordances, and even business models. 

Process

I followed a grounded approach, starting with a framework about trust and social contracts in online communities, performing ethnographic methods and incorporating quantitative methods.

Literature Review

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Discourse Analysis + Participant observation

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In depth Interviews

Survey

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Findings

The findings of this research are being written out for publication. Contact me to see a pre-print of my findings so far.