Experiments in co-modification: a relational take on the becoming of commodities and the making of market value
Social studies of science have for many years analyzed and demonstrated the key role of experiments to science and the making of facts. But what is the role of experiments in market work? And what, if anything, can we learn from them about markets and commodities? ask Little tools researchers Kristin Asdal and Beatrice Cointe.
It is perhaps tempting to say that we can learn very little. This paper investigates a series of market research experiments investigating consumers' valuations of farmed fish, and these are almost comical in their painstaking attention to mundane details. However, when looked into closely, they provide key insights into commodification processes and the scholarly literature to understand them. Most importantly, their analysis allows us to grasp how commodities do not simply emerge as the outcome of a one way process directed towards the market, but through a relational process that jointly works with and acts upon things and people, markets and production. The paper works with the notion of co-modification to trace and stay close to these relational processes. In doing this the paper simultaneously strives for an approach that is not framed by the dominant conceptual distinction between production and market, but instead directed towards the materiality and activeness of the things exchanged. The notion of co-modification emphasises that there is more to market that the human hand. The paper shows that it can also be used in a stronger sense to suggest that commodification is a process where things, people, production methods and markets are actively modifying one another.
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