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User resistance and repurposing: a look at the iOS ‘jailbreaking’ scene in Brazil


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Paper presented at The 14th Annual Conference of the Association of Internet October 23 - 26, 2013, Denver, CO - USA - Adriana Amaral & Rosana Souza

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User resistance and repurposing: a look at the iOS ‘jailbreaking’ scene in Brazil

  1. 1. User resistance and repurposing: a look at the iOS ‘jailbreaking’ scene in Brazil Adriana Amaral University of Vale do Rio dos Sinos - Brazil Rosana Vieira de Souza University of Vale do Rio dos Sinos - Brazil The 14th Annual Conference of the Association of Internet October 23 - 26, 2013, Denver, CO - USA
  2. 2. • The mobile environment • Jailbreaking as resistance • Purpose • Methods • Discussion: motivations and critical incidents • Conclusions Quick Overview 3
  3. 3. • The rise of “closed spaces” in the mobile environment (Benkler, 2006; Galloway, 2006 and Zittrain, 2008) • Computer-mediated platforms and the role of mobile operating systems (e.g. iOS, Android) • Apple iOS devices (iPod, iPhone, iPad) as highly controlled spaces • Handsets tied to a specific carrier • Third-party apps not allowed • Users’ strategies to unlock the handset and the desire to run unofficial apps (out of the official App Store). The Mobile Environment 4
  4. 4. • The practice called ‘jailbreaking’ has emerged in 2007 as an alternative to Apple’s restrictions • Jailbreaking allows users to change a device’s operating system to run a number of applications not approved by Apple or to open up additional features • The procedure includes the download of free computer software that installs a hack onto the device and the installation of an alternative store called Cydia • Around 22.8 million jailbroken iOS devices running Cydia Store (Perez, 2013) Jailbreaking as Resistance 5
  5. 5. • Tools and the iOS hacker communities: • Redsn0w (by the iPhone Dev Team) • Spirit and “JailbreakMe 2.0” (by Comex) • Evasi0n (by Evad3rs) • Absinthe (by Chronic Dev Team) Jailbreaking as Resistance 6
  6. 6. “JailbreakMe is the easiest way to free your device. Experience iOS as it could be, fully customizable, themeable, and with every tweak you could possibly imagine. Jailbreaking gives you control over the device you own”. Source: Google images 7
  7. 7. • To discuss the growth of mobile platforms and the emergence of user counter-power in these environments; • To reflect upon jailbreaking practices from the users’ point of view. Purpose 8
  8. 8. • Qualitative approach and data collected by • observation of discussion forums (iPhoneMod Brasil Forum); • in-depth interviews with jailbreakers; • This preliminary phase of interviews was conducted from April to June 2013 (24 critical incidents from 12 interviewers): • motivations for jailbreaking; • critical events perceived as highly significant for either success or failure of the practice (Critical Incident Technique, Flanagan, 1954). Methods 9
  9. 9. • CIT: Think of a recent situation regarding the jailbreaking experience with your mobile phone. Describe the situation and exactly what happened. 1. When did the incident happen? 2. What specific circumstances led up to this situation? 3. What did you do? (coping strategy do deal with the event) Methods 10
  10. 10. Source: data collection Discussion Screenshot of jailbroken iPhone Home screen with personalization app 11
  11. 11. 1. Users motivations to engage in jailbreaking practices • High performance handset + freedom to optimization = experience that resembles the flexibility provided by the internet; • Need to extend the device capabilities in order to keep it more personalized; • Trade-off: concerns about the high costs of the iOS devices in the Brazilian market: • too expensive to risk vs. too expensive for not expanding their capabilities; “You stop and think that you pay a lot for something that is not what you expected, and since Apple does not allow you to perform a ‘test drive’ for apps, then it is complicated” (Camila, 19) Discussion 12
  12. 12. 1. Critical Incidents • iOS updates “I’m always running an older version of the iOS cause it takes time for them [the hacker community] to crack the program. iTunes keep on asking me for updating but if I update the version I have in my device I will lose my jailbreak and Cydia” (Breno, 26) • App failure and unexpected outcomes “In the jailbreaking world you can never know for sure (…) when I know the app is very important for my presentations, I need to buy it ‘cause I cannot take the risk of having an unstable app” (James, 23) “I consider myself experienced in jailbreaking and it was like a chock” (Camila, 19) • Now I can, too “Now I can, too, ‘cause I spent months seeing the games they could play in the US and I could not” (Alexandre, 17) “Now I can play the same game as the girls, otherwise, I could not ‘cause my parents do not allow me to pay for apps” (Laila, 15) Discussion 13
  13. 13. • iOS devices and their networks do not invite user innovation; • Jailbreaking works as a social counter-power and indicates a resistance to negative aspects of the market restrictions (control, lack of flexibility, customization and reinvention); • It emerges from a free culture logic that legitimates the freedom to access, distribute or modify content and creative work; • However, there is a permanent tension and feeling of ambivalence • In the paradoxical nature of technology (e.g. new / obsolete) • In the trade-offs the iOS users need to cope with (e.g. stability, security and control vs. risk of instability and freedom) Conclusions 14