Informality and HCI


If formality operates through the fixing of value, including the mapping of spatial value, then informality operates through the constant negotiability of value and the unmapping of space.” Roy (2003) in AlSayyad, Nezar, and Ananya Roy, Urban informality: Transnational perspectives from the middle East, latin America, and south Asia. Lexington Books, 2003

Informal Traditional Marketplaces

Through studying existing marketplaces, the project informs the design of new digital marketplaces that facilitate interactions, support communities and become vibrant public spaces.

Historically, traditional marketplaces have been important public spaces that facilitated the flow of information and goods, along with being centres of urban growth. They also represent bottom-up approaches towards the distribution of goods and services that are embedded in local contexts. As a collective socio-economic entity that brings customers, sellers, and goods together into a single physical space — they are rich sites for the study of technology consumption.

This project consists of an ethnographic study conducted over 3 years that investigated the underlying infrastructures and institutions that organize and sustain a technology-goods marketplace in Bangalore, India. From a HCI perspective, outlined the agency of market actors in finding resourceful and adaptive means to make digital technologies fit their everyday needs. Further, through studying the continued persistence of the traditional marketplaces in the face of online marketplaces, it contributes to HCI/ICTD research that looks to better understand why and how new technology interventions succeed or fail.


  1. Chandra, P. & Pal, J. (2019). Rumors and Collective Sensemaking: Managing Ambiguity in an Informal Marketplace. In Proceedings of the 2019 SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems. ACM. link
  2. Chandra, P. & Chen J. (2019). Taming the Amazon: The Domestication of Online Shopping in India. In Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development. ACM. link
  3. Pal, J., Chandra, P., et al. (2018). Digital payment and its discontents: Street shops and the Indian government’s push for cashless transactions, In Proceedings of the 2018 SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems. link
  4. Chandra, P. (2017). Informality and Invisibility – Traditional Technologies as Tools for Collaboration in an Informal Market, In Proceedings of the 2017 SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 4765-4775). Honorable Mention Award link
  5. Chandra, P., Ahmed, S.I., Pal, J. (2017). Market Practices and the Bazaar: Technology Consumption in Urban ICT Markets in the Global South, In Proceedings of the 2017 SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 4741-4752). link
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Information

I study design and informality focusing on communities who live on the margins.