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App ecologies: Mapping apps and their support networks


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Presentation by Anne Helmond, Fernando van der Vlist, Esther Weltevrede and Carolin Gerlitz at the Association of Internet Researchers Conference Berlin 2016

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App ecologies: Mapping apps and their support networks

  1. 1. App ecologies: Mapping apps and their support networks Carolin Gerlitz, Anne Helmond, Fernando van der Vlist, and Esther Weltevrede AoIR 2016 Berlin: "Internet Rules!", 5–8 October 2016, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany University of Siegen / University of Amsterdam
  2. 2. Intersecting app & platform studies Move beyond studying apps from a single medium perspective. Intricate relation between apps and platforms: platform incentive developers to build on top of their data and features. Aim: understand apps as relational and situated software entities.
  3. 3. Creating the conditions for app development Characteristics of social media platforms (1) programmability (Bogost & Montfort 2009; Helmond 2015) (2) affordances & constraints (Langlois & Elmer 2013) (3) involvement of heterogeneous stakeholders (Gillespie 2010). Developers realise the programmability and interpretative flexibility (Bijker & Pinch 1987) of platforms.
  4. 4. Making engagement with platforms visible How do developers engage with platform data & features? How do they recombine, expand, reinterpret and twist it? What relations between platforms and apps emerge? New method repurposes app stores to identify and map apps built on top of or in relation to platforms.
  5. 5. Method: App store as starting point
  6. 6. Method: Identifying apps and similar apps
  7. 7. Method: Emergent categorisation using the self- description of apps
  8. 8. Types of relating to platforms 1. Popularity growth and strategic engagement 2. Enhancing platform functions 3. Adding functionalities
  9. 9. Facebook sunburst
  10. 10. Twitter sunburst
  11. 11. Zoom: 100% 2. Sharing, Scheduling, ... 3. Content Downloading 4. Cameras, Editors, ... Facebook alt. clients
  12. 12. Zoom: 100% 2. Content Sharing 3. App Customisation 4. Content Downloading Twitter alt. clients
  13. 13. Instagram sunburst
  14. 14. 1. Editor 3.Manager 4. Monitor Zoom: 100% Instagram added functionalities
  15. 15. Snapchat sunburst
  16. 16. 1. Editor 2. Functionality 3. Friends Zoom: 100% Snapchat guides
  17. 17. Conditions for app development Implications of API politics Few alternative clients or readers (Instagram and Snapchat) Few content aggregation or search-related apps Relative absence of automated or bot-related apps (Twitter)
  18. 18. Negotiating openness & closure Platforms create the conditions within which app development on top of their data can take place. API politics (cf. Bucher 2013) as central means to regulate openness and closure of the platform’s interpretative flexibility. Negotiation involves a variety of stakeholders (platforms, developers, users).
  19. 19. From platform politics to stakeholder politics Stakeholder politics: how developers twist and tweak platform data and features to make them fit their own objectives and valuation regimes. Intersects developers - platform - users. Understanding stakeholder politics contributes to both app and platform studies - allows to study apps as situated software & platforms as open/closed.