Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Shopping as a Modern Quest


Cite this article:

2017 EPIC Proceedings, ISSN 1559-8918,

PechaKucha Presentation

As Ethnographic Practitioners in Industry, shopping behavior is a frequent topic of our research. We take on the role of the consumer’s advocate, arguing for products that bring value. Or decry the rise of consumerism as the focus of modern life, as exemplified by the drive to acquisition. Recent research on shopping has led me to thinking about quests from a different perspective. While we think of the pursuit of goods in terms of commercialism, in many cases there is an important journey along the way. Perhaps, in some instances, shopping is a quest—a journey toward a goal, in which often the journey itself is as important as the goal, and at others, the true goal is not the object. In traditional anthropological studies, quests that are in pursuit of a “thing” are usually about the basics of survival, and more focus has been put onto those that are spiritual pursuits, leading to a discovery of self and a path into the community. This PechaKucha describes how the pursuit of an commercial item sometimes achieves more than simply the object itself, as the landscape of that journey creates (and is created by) social connection.

Alexandra Mack is a Senior Fellow in Pitney Bowes’s Strategic Technology and Innovation Center. Her work is focused on developing ideas for new products, services, and technologies based on a deep understanding of work practice.