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Thinking Market Infrastructure: Barcode Scanning in the US Grocery Retail Sector, 1967–2010

Thinking Infrastructures

ISBN: 978-1-78769-558-0, eISBN: 978-1-78769-557-3

Publication date: 7 August 2019


This chapter explores the concept of market infrastructure, which is tentatively defined as a materially heterogeneous arrangement that silently supports and structures the consummation of market exchanges. Specifically, the authors investigate the enactment of market infrastructure in the US grocery retail sector by exploring how barcodes and related devices contributed to modify its market infrastructure during the period 1967–2010. Combining this empirical case with insights from previous research, the authors propose that market infrastructures are relational, available for use, modular, actively maintained, interdependent, commercial, emergent and political. The authors argue that this conception of market infrastructure provides a powerful tool for unveiling the complex agencements and engineering efforts that underpin seemingly superficial, individual and isolated market exchanges.




We warmly thank Progressive Grocer for granting us the permission to reproduce the images this publication rests on. We are also greatly indebted to the Librarians of the New York Public Library for their assistance.


Kjellberg, H., Hagberg, J. and Cochoy, F. (2019), "Thinking Market Infrastructure: Barcode Scanning in the US Grocery Retail Sector, 1967–2010", Kornberger, M., Bowker, G.C., Elyachar, J., Mennicken, A., Miller, P., Nucho, J.R. and Pollock, N. (Ed.) Thinking Infrastructures (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 62), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 207-232.



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