'Love it. buy it. sell it': Consumer desire and the social drama of eBay

Janice Denegri-Knott*, Mike Molesworth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Our work adds to existing research on eBay by presenting it as a space where consumers' imaginations are stimulated and where their psychological work to manufacture ever new wants and desires allows for a reflection of consumer tastes and practices. To do so, we conceptualize eBay as a digital virtual space that allows consumers to browse at length through a plethora of goods, test preferences and potentially reflect on the significance of objects and daydreams pursued. Conceptually, we draw a synthesis between desire and imagination-laden narratives within consumer research with Rob Shield's analytic of the digital virtual and its relationship to the real and ideal. From that reading we attribute eBay with a liminoid texture that helps us account for the social dramas that some of its users, such as famed science fiction writer William Gibson, may experience. We argue that whilst eBay does not provoke the initial breach, its enormous, global, ever changing catalogue of goods, produces a crisis that invites the user to engage in redressive action. That analysis has two moments, one focusing on the eBay experience as a form of fl̂nerie, and then, how visual and written information gathered from searching eBay can be used to craft daydreams relative to a desired good. Specifically, we consider concrete consumer practices through which consumers feed and actualize more substantive daydreams of an improved life, including bookmarking, bidding and winning (owning) desired items. We conclude that eBay's significance as a seductive site to consume (in) lies in its ability to allow for the continuous construction of latent wants while providing consumers with the tools to react to these wants in various ways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-79
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Consumer Culture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


  • Consumer desire
  • Digital virtual consumption
  • EBay
  • Liminoid
  • Social drama

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Social Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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