Electronic Bazaar: Social Media as a marketplace in contemporary Kazakhstan
This study focuses on different modalities of social media trade in Kazakhstan and how sellers create trust online using platform features, personal skills and physical locations of stores associated with social media accounts. Researching this topic in Kazakhstan locates this study in a specifically interesting intersection of trade, technology, informality and trust. Social media trade is a part of electronic commerce that is new and technologically advanced type of business, however many traders work informally as they fail to meet legal norms as business registration, tax payment and giving receipts. Just as individual traders poured to the streets in the period of perestroika, modern day small business owners have occupied social media and turned it into an electronic bazaar. Driven by the question of trust building in a complex realm of electronic but yet informal trade, I focus on a concept of a "living account" that is coined by my ethnographic data (interviews, observations and social media content analysis). I explore different dimensions of trade both online and offline to understand how these realms are intertwined in the question of informality and trust. I argue that as long as an account is perceived to be "living" the question of formal registration, taxes and receipts is not relevant to customers. As shops located at bazaars transfer their stores online, and traders learn new technology in order to increase their sales, this study challenges the notion of bazaars being static and backward as they are perceived in the literature.
Media and Politics in Central Asia