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Paper number: PC99

Title: Consumer Culture and Pervasive Retail

Submission type: Research paper

Relevance to magazine: 4
// 4 = Timely and relevant

Presentation and clarity: 2
// 2 = Hard to understand

Reviewer expertise: 4
// 4 = My work overlaps this topic

Depth of contribution: 1
// 1 = Seriously flawed

Overall recommendation: 1
// 1 = Reject

Detailed comments for the authors:

The authors (I'll assume there are more than one) have trouble dealing with social and sociological concepts such as "meaning assigned to objects reproduced by culturally meaningful lifestyles" and "the perception of ourselves." These are built up at the outset to be extremely important concepts for understanding the research contained in the paper, but only the latter is even mentioned later (and is mostly used as a proxy for privacy); the former contributes absolutely nothing to the paper. "Consumer culture" is ill-defined and the ways in which it is generally evaluated according to the paper, such as "its ability to sustain desired ways of life and meet perceived needs," only play a token role in the evaluation of the MyGrocer system described therein. The rationale seem to be comprised of some interesting research, unfortunately cobbled together in a haphazard way that illuminates little and leaves a bad first impression.

The paper then proceeds to make a number of unsubstantiated claims and broad cultural judgments, such as a pre-emptive system being "contrary to the experience of being human." Little evidence of a potential "fundamental transformation of the traditional family roles" is given other than the being able to automatically keep track of things around the house that need replenishment as "undermining the status quo." I am troubled by the live supermarket study that clearly eliminated a huge concern of potential users, namely the collection and storage of personal data, by choosing as its participants members of a supermarket loyalty club. These people, least likely to complain about privacy because they already knew they were being watched, then are used to support the conclusion that "consumers would accept the introduction of pervasive retail systems when they become financially viable." This strikes me as contradictory, and simply as bad research. In the storyboard study, whose scope is not clearly explained at all, users strictly reject the notion that a pre-emptive system can meet their needs, and express clear discomfort about personal data being used in both the store and the home. None of these damning arguments are countered.

The writing of the paper is appalling as well, full of spelling and mechanical errors, passive voice, poor diction, and all-around shoddiness. These authors must not have even looked at the style guide for IEEE PVC submissions, which prescribes the use of active voice, down-to-earth jargon (no attempt at explaining the different numbered generations of pervasive retail systems), and at least an attempt to appeal to a wide audience. Not all of this can simply be edited away without major rewriting.

Overall, I am extremely disappointed in this paper, which is too bad because I think there may be some validity to the notions of pervasive retail being an entertaining experience for the shopper, as well as it being a deliverer of value. The system seems tailor-made to their description of the "new consumer," and as such sets up interesting possibilities for increasing their understanding of this "new consumer" and a shifting "consumer culture"; unfortunately, none come to any fruition in this paper. The CFP asked for articles on "The Human Experience in Pervasive Computing," not flawed system evaluations.