App Stores as Data Infrastructure

Team Members

Anne Helmond, Fernando van der Vlist, Carolin Gerlitz, Debora Salles, Wenwen Zhao, Jur Peppels, Anna Pleijsier, Thomas van Veen, Mintsje de Witte, Sabina Bahisheva, Bianca Banu, Lisa Kloostra, Alfrida Martis, Jingshui Zhang, Yanqin Gao, Matteo Azzi, Federica Bardelli


Initial project pitch (abstract)

This project will explore app stores as the primary environment or infrastructure for mobile apps. When and how can we conceive of app stores as data infrastructures? End-users and developers use app stores to engage with apps for different purposes: e.g., for distributing, searching, finding, and downloading apps. As such, app stores may be envisioned as a particular kind of infrastructure, facilitating specific use practices of, and engagement with, mobile apps. At the same time they are also infrastructures for research, offering specific ‘research affordances’ (Weltevrede, 2016) enabling researchers to employ its tools or methods and data for the purpose of social and/or medium research (Rogers, 2017).

Research questions

  • When and how can we conceive of app stores as data infrastructures?
  • How to repurpose their analytical affordances for social and/or medium research?
  • How to study Apple’s App Store, directly (e.g., ‘Related’) or indirectly (e.g., via AppAnnie)?
  • Which other app stores are currently out there, and how exactly do they differ?
  • How do these app stores ‘infrastructure’ apps differently?
  • Can we identify and demarcate distinct app spheres – that is, device demarcated source sets (Rogers, 2013) – emerging or built ‘on top of’ these app stores or infrastructures. How do different spheres cater to distinct mobile operating systems or devices and regions or countries? Can we develop cross-spherical app store analysis?

Research goals/objectives

  • To create a list or inventory of app stores, including in particular non-American app stores.
  • To explore how different app stores ‘infrastructure’ apps differently.
  • To explore and experiment with the research affordances of different app stores.
  • To develop comparative app store analysis (e.g., interface-based, device-based, language/region-based, content-based). For example, how does each app store curate, sort, rank, display, and recommend apps? (i.e., Apple’s App Store emphasises charts and curated lists and lists ‘Related’ apps, whereas Google Play facilitates search and ‘Similar’ apps)?
  • To develop novel methods (and improvements for existing tools) for studying Apple’s App Store.
  • To assess the usability of our current tool for extracting details from Apple’s iTunes Store.

Previous projects

Presentation slides

Topic revision: r4 - 24 Jan 2017, FernandoVanDerVlist
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