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Designing and theorizing the adoption of mobile technology‐mediated ethical consumption tools

Stephanie Watts (Boston University School of Management, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
George Wyner (Boston University School of Management, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 23 August 2011




The ethical consumption movement is increasingly being supported by mobile web applications that enable consumers to reward ethical companies (and punish unethical ones) with their purchasing decisions. By providing company ethics information to consumers at the point of purchase with the swipe of a barcode, these applications hold the promise of an additional market mechanism for motivating companies to serve the public good. However, the degree that this potential is realized will depend on how widely such applications are adopted and diffused. This paper aims to identify design factors for such applications that theory suggests will enhance their diffusion by increasing the likelihood that the user will adopt the information these applications deliver.


The multi‐level model incorporates dual‐process cognitive theory, social capital theory, and technical design features of the mobile technology‐enabled ethical consumption (MTEC) tool to understand factors that contribute to information adoption. In this way the paper takes a design science approach to the problem of enhancing human and societal benefit.


The findings have identified technical design features for MTEC tools that show promise for maximizing data transparency, source credibility, and information adoption. These features also have the potential to minimize consumers' cost/effort to contribute their purchase (and non‐purchase) decision information to the associated community, increasing the quantity and frequency of such contributions.


Market‐based mechanisms for upholding the public good hold much promise for ensuring the long‐term viability of society and the earth. Hence, the role that IT can play in establishing and supporting them demands rigorous theoretically driven models of design prior to empirical validation. Whereas design science research (DSR) is often focused on solving a business problem, this work helps to expand the domain of DSR to encompass the need to address problems of human benefit and civil society.



Watts, S. and Wyner, G. (2011), "Designing and theorizing the adoption of mobile technology‐mediated ethical consumption tools", Information Technology & People, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 257-280.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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