Rumors and Collective Sensemaking: Managing Ambiguity in an Informal Marketplace


Rumors are an enduring form of communication across socio-cultural landscapes globally. Counter to their typical negative association, rumors play a nuanced role, helping people collectively deal with problems through constructing a representation of an uncertain situation. Drawing on unstructured interviews and participant observation from a technology goods marketplace in Bangalore, India, we study the circulation of rumors related to the government’s recent policy of demonetization and entry of online marketplaces and digital wallets, all of which disrupted existing market practices. These rumors emerge as attempts at sensemaking when a community is faced with ambiguity. Through highlighting the relationship of institutional trust with rumors, the paper argues that the study of rumors can help us identify the concerns of a community in the face of differential power relations. Further, rumors are a form of social bonding which help communities make sense of their place in society and shape existing practices.

Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems