Apps and Their Practices

A comparative issue analysis across app stores and countries

Team Members

Faciliators: Esther Weltevrede, Anne Helmond

Team members: Esther Weltevrede, Anne Helmond, Rimmert Sijtsma, Silke Mulder, Anne Schmitz, Arman Eslambolchi, Herbert Natta, Maria Valese, Sanne Kalf, Timo den Hartog, Shemayra Bastiaanse, Dania Awin, Gabriele Colombo, Jacopo Poletto, Carlo De Gaetano, Jack O'Carroll, James Sharp, Alla Rybina

Introduction

Within media studies, apps are increasingly receiving attention as an object of study, and this project contributes to the empirical analysis and conceptualisation of apps. Contrary to the web, which was originally imagined as a shared information space (Berners-Lee, 1996) and social media platforms, which were initially conceptualized as user-generated and/or spaces for social connectedness (Van Dijck, 2009; 2013), apps have been conceived as informational commodities from their inception (Daubs & Manzerolle, 2015; Morris & Elkins, 2015; Nieborg, 2015). This is related to the conceptualization and implementation of the app store as primary place to discover, purchase and download apps. Today, mobile apps have become significant cultural and economic forms (Miller & Matviyenko, 2014). With the average user spending almost 1.5 months using apps per year, apps have become deeply embedded in our everyday lives (App Annie, 2018). Apps are ‘mundane software’, not only because they support everyday practices, but because they insinuate themselves into our routines and habits (Morris & Elkins, 2015).

Starting from these conceptualisations of apps as a commodity and as supporting our everyday practices, routines and habits, this project contributes by empirically analysing and conceptualising the app space (cf. Dieter et al., 2019). It does so by comparing issues across app stores in various countries as well as attending to the infrastructural layers enabling app development for wearable devices.

Research Questions

  • What type of media or informational space is the app space?
  • Do app stores function as issue spaces?
  • How can we characterise the app space (in comparison to other spaces such as the web, or social media)?
  • How do app stores organize issues differently/similarly?
The goal of the project is to operationalize a comparative issue analysis across app stores.

Subprojects

  • Body modification and beautification
  • Gender bias in the Health & Fitness category
  • Privacy Apps in Iran and United States
  • The Fitbit app ecosystem
  • The digital portray of a city

Conclusions

  • App practices are global practices but there are also gendered, country, and store-specific practices.
  • App stores display the political economy of apps in action, e.g. in relation to prohibited trade practices (US apps in the Iranian app store).
  • The wearable app ecosystem is a nested app ecosystem even more enclosed than iOS/Android.
  • Infrastructural layerness poses new methodological challenges for data collection.

References

  • Berners-Lee T (1996) WWW: past, present, and future. Computer 29(10): 69–77. DOI: 10.1109/2.539724.
  • Dieter M, Gerlitz C, Helmond A, et al. (2019) Multi-Situated App Studies: Methods and Propositions. Social Media + Society 5(2): 1–15. DOI: 10.1177/2056305119846486.
  • Daubs MS and Manzerolle VR (2015) App-centric mobile media and commoditization: Implications for the future of the open Web. Mobile Media & Communication. DOI: 10.1177/2050157915592657.
  • Miller PD and Matviyenko S (eds) (2014) The Imaginary App. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Morris JW and Elkins E (eds) (2015) There’s a History for That: Apps and Mundane Software as Commodity. The Fibreculture Journal (25): 63–88. DOI: 10.15307/fcj.25.181.2015.
  • Nieborg DB (2015) Crushing Candy: The Free-to-Play Game in Its Connective Commodity Form. Social Media + Society 1(2). DOI: 10.1177/2056305115621932.
  • van Dijck J (2009) Users like you? Theorizing agency in user-generated content. Media, Culture & Society 31(1): 41–58. DOI: 10.1177/0163443708098245.
  • Van Dijck J (2013) The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media. New York: Oxford University Press.

Slides

Topic revision: r4 - 22 Jan 2020, AnneHelmond
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