Despite the long-time talk about the demise of the street-market as an inefficient place to make money street-markets, flea-markets and car-boot sales are booming. People seem to have discovered these places not only as markets to buy and sell objects but also as places for leisure activities. In London and other big cities street-markets have become major tourist attractions. In recent years, they have been redeveloped to increase their attractiveness and possibly also to give them a more trustworthy, clean and orderly look. Moreover, they often are equipped with surveillance cameras and security staff who police trading and behaviour more generally. Yet, what has remained largely the same over the past years is that sales are produced in interaction between traders and customers, people who first show an interest in a particular stall or sales item and then make a purchase, or sometimes leave without buying anything. “Price” and”price information” plays a particular part in the interaction between traders and their customers. In “Timing is money” I consider pricing not so much as a process of calculation for the participant to get the best value out of the interaction, although this may play a part in this as well, but as a communicative practice that traders and customers deploy in the interaction. The paper examines the moment when and the way in which traders and customers use “price” in their interaction, e.g. when do they use price in an offer or request of a sales item? It turns out that price is often deployed as a technique to manage the ‘floor’ and the interaction at the stall. For example, when customers display an interest in an item but are not yet committed to buying an item offers, including price information, are designed in a particular way that encourage the customers to commit to make a purchase.

The paper uses “focused ethnography” as a research method. Alongside other recent developments in ethnography, such as “short-term ethnography” (Pink and Morgan 2013) Hubert Knoblauch developed “focused ethnography” (2005) an observational research methods that often supported by video-recordings examines in detail particular settings and activities while spending only relatively short periods of time there.


Knoblauch, Hubert (2005). Focused Ethnography [30 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research6(3), Art. 44,

Llewellyn, N. and Burrow, R.. (2008) Streetwise sales and the social order of city streets British Journal Of Sociology 59: 561-583.

Pink, Sarah & Morgan, Jennie (2013). Short-term Ethnography. Symbolic Interaction Vol.36(3) 351-361

vom Lehn, Dirk (2013). Timing is Money: managing the floor in sales interaction at street-market stalls. Journal of Marketing Management. (Early View)

Over the past few years, together with comments at the Work, Interaction & Technology Research Centre (Christian Heath and Helena Webb) at KCL, Will Gibson at the Institute of Education and the optometrists Bruce EvansDavid Thomson and Peter Allen I worked on research and knowledge exchange projects exploring the practical work of optometrists and developing communications training material. some of the research now has been written up and a few months ago a paper “Engendering Response: Professional Gesture and the Assessment of Eye Sight in Optometry Consultations” was published in Symbolic Interaction. This paper focuses on a particular procedure, the so-called Subjective Refraction that involves optometrist and patient in a sequence of interaction through which some of the characteristics of any corrective lens the patient might need, are determined. Some may recognise the test as the better/worse test as it is characterised by a procedure during which the optometrist alternates a patient’s vision by placing a lens in front of their eye as asking, “better with or without”. Our study here was particularly interested in the practice of placing the lens in front of the patient’s eye, a practice that we described as “professional gesture”. Although not specifically taught in optometric training the optometrists in our research deployed the lens by moving it in a particular way in front of the patient’s eye. The gestural movement of the lens in front of the patient’s eye followed almost exactly the same route through the air in all consultations that we filmed.  Our analysis reveals that such a carefully designed gesture is required for the optometrist to be able to arrive at reliable and robust data about the patient’s sight. They need the patient to respond to a series of different stimuli presented in front of them without reflecting about it.

Here is a video-abstract on the YouTube channel of Symbolic Interaction in which the lead author of the paper, Helena Webb, discusses the content of the paper and shows the gesture.




Die zunehmende Bedeutung von Videodaten in den Sozialwissenschaften in den vergangenen 30 Jahren wurde ueberraschenderweise nicht von technischen Entwicklungen begleitet, die dem Sozialwissenschaftler dabei helfen, mit der Komplixitaet des Datenmaterials umzugehen. Dies ist ueberraschend, da andere Benutzer von Videodaten, wie beispielsweise Trainer von Athletn und Fussballern, schon seit laengerem (semi-)professionelle Softwarepakete zur Analyse ihrer Daten verwenden.

Christine Moritz, die selbst das System Feldpartitur entwickelt hat, hat nun ein Buch herausgegeben, in dem Sozialwissenschaftler ihre sehr unterschiedlichen Vorgehensweisen und Praktiken zur Transkription von Video- und Filmdaten darstellen und erklaeren. Ihr Band “Transkription von Video- und Filmdaten in der Qualitativen Sozialforschung” beinhaltet drei Beitraege, die sich mit forschungsmethodologischen Ueberlegungen zur Analyse von Video- und Filmdaten in den Sozialwissenschaften auseinandersetzen, sowie 17 Kapitel, in denen Autoren erlaeutern, wie sie mit ihrer spezifischen forschungsmethodologischen Einstellung Video- und Filmdaten transkribieren und welche Bedeutung ihr Transkript fuer die Datenanalyse und -praesentation hat.

Mehr Informationen ueber den Band finden sich hier.

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