[Air-L] Reminder: Call for Abstracts -- Special Issue on Apps and Infrastructures

Anne Helmond anne at digitalmethods.net
Tue Mar 20 09:00:06 PDT 2018

Dear all,

We invite submissions for a special issue of Computational Culture on "Apps
and Infrastructures", edited by Carolin Gerlitz, Anne Helmond, David
Nieborg, and Fernando van der Vlist. Please find the call for abstracts

750 word abstracts are due by April 1, 2018. More information is available
at http://computationalculture.net/cfps-events/. Queries to the editors can
be addressed at apps.infrastructures at gmail.com.

Best regards,

Carolin Gerlitz (University of Siegen)
Anne Helmond (University of Amsterdam)
David Nieborg (University of Toronto)
Fernando van der Vlist (University of Siegen and University of Amsterdam)



# A special issue of Computational Culture, a Journal of Software Studies
# Edited by Carolin Gerlitz, Anne Helmond, David Nieborg, Fernando van der


Apps have become an important new cultural, technical, and economic
software form. Most of today’s apps are designed to run on smartphones and
other mobile devices and provide functions previously possible with other
software forms (Morris and Elkins, 2015). However, they represent new ways
in which software artefacts are developed, tested, packaged, promoted,
distributed, monitored, monetised, downloaded, integrated, updated, stored,
accessed, archived, interpreted, and used. To foreground the relational and
material dimensions of apps, research should not only account for them as
discrete media objects, but needs to approach apps as part of their
multiple infrastructures and environments including app stores, development
platforms, advertising technologies, analytics tools, and cloud services,
among others.

App stores set the conditions for users and developers to distribute,
browse, promote, monetise, rate, and download apps developed for Apple’s
iOS, Google’s Android, or other mobile operating systems. Developers draw
on a variety of both official and third-party developer tools, including
developer pages and reference documentation, application programming
interfaces (APIs), software development kits (SDKs), integrated development
environments (IDEs), and dedicated programming languages. Such resources
are commonly employed in order to build, test, and monitor apps whilst
appropriating the features and constraints of particular platforms and
devices, thereby participating in the re-interpretation and re-evaluation
of platform features and data. Furthermore, apps may also utilise a
device’s built-in sensors for continuous data collection of movements,
practices, and environments whilst being wirelessly connected to the cloud
or other infrastructures, without the user necessarily knowing exactly
when, how, or where (Mackenzie, 2010).

Approaching apps from an infrastructural perspective allows attending to
the various socio-technical actors, layers, and inscriptions that inform
app development, distribution, and usage in situated, distributed, and
often dissimilar ways. Within such stacked intermediary infrastructures,
platform logics of negotiation among heterogeneous stakeholders are
multiplied and nested. This raises questions about the material and
technological boundaries of apps and the subsequent need for methodologies
to study apps’ socio-technical assemblages on multiple scales, attending to
inbound and outbound data flows, governance and power, valuation, their
political economy, and material semiotics. Previous research on apps --
initially emerging at the intersection of mobile studies and media studies
-- considered mobile apps as a form of mobile or location-based media
transforming and generating new forms of communication and sociality,
places, and publics through the affordances and practices associated with
mobile artefacts (Goggin and Hjorth, 2014). While these studies raised
general questions about the boundaries of apps, attention was primarily
directed to apps as compartmentalised software applications and their
relations with affect, bodies, and locales (Farman 2012; Matviyenko et al.,
2015; Morris and Elkins, 2015). A second strand of app research has moved
beyond such a single app focus and directed primary attention to the
materialities and infrastructures of apps by engaging with their data
cultures, material connections, political economic underpinnings, and
ecologies (Albury et al., 2017; Farman, 2015; Goldsmith in Goggin and
Hjorth, 2014; Horst, 2013; Nieborg, 2017; Wilken, 2015).

This special issue of Computational Culture welcomes proposals and projects
from scholars and practitioners from across different disciplines
interested in the advancement of app studies at the intersection of apps
and infrastructures. Studies of mobile apps, platform native apps, and web
browser apps or extensions are particularly encouraged. We specifically
seek articles that bring together conceptual work with a technically and
empirically grounded perspective, addressing the methodological challenges
associated with the critical study of apps and their intricate relations to
other software, platforms, and infrastructures. Contributors are encouraged
to move beyond studies of single apps and their users in favor of
approaches that explore apps as material artefacts alongside the
infrastructures, political economy, and environments in which they are
embedded and situationally enacted. We thus encourage interdisciplinary
contributions that traverse boundaries between the fields of software
studies, platform studies, cultural and media studies, science and
technology studies, as well as political economy and data critique.


 * The relations between apps and their wider material and infrastructural
environments, including app stores, development platforms and toolkits,
analytics tools, advertising technologies, and cloud services.
 * The methodological and empirical challenges associated with the critical
study of apps, including concerns about accessibility to mobile app
backends and the limits of data retrieval through APIs or scraping methods
as used in web research.
 * Studies of apps as articulations of technicity (e.g., how they are
designed, built, maintained, and updated) and the data cultures they
produce (e.g., what data do they collect or require).
 * Detailed empirical and critical studies exploring apps’ data cultures,
usage tracking, technical dependencies and app permissions, sensor
technologies, and wireless access points.
 * Inventive methods to conceptualise how apps are located or situated,
given they are utilising a mobile device’s built-in sensors as well as
accessing other resources from remote cloud infrastructures.
 * Studies of the political economy of apps (e.g., how apps are valued and
monetized), the role of industry partnerships and third parties (e.g., how
apps are re-interpreted or extended), and the politics of operability
(e.g., how apps negotiate among stakeholders or interests).
 * Explorations of the techno-economic relations between the web and app
ecosystems, including the dependencies of apps on web platforms and cloud
services, as well as the regulations and limits of app development by
device manufacturers and mobile operating systems like Android and iOS.
 * Explorations of the ways and mechanisms through which multiple apps are
interconnected, forming collections, ecologies, and chains of apps in
specific practices (e.g., task and content automation).
 * Media archaeologies exploring historical constellations of apps and
their wider material and infrastructural environments and other historical
approaches to app research.
 * Explorations of app stores as the primary environment or infrastructure
for mobile apps, including contributions focusing on non-Western apps and
app stores, apps’ update cultures, and their development cycles.
 * The ways in which different material and infrastructural environments,
such as app stores, cater to distinct mobile operating systems, devices,
and geographic regions.
 * Critical artistic interventions and research software tools that
repurpose the affordances of apps, app stores and other native
environments, and explore their data cultures.


750 word abstracts should be emailed to apps.infrastructures at gmail.com by
April 1, 2018.

Any queries can be addressed to the editors at
apps.infrastructures at gmail.com.

Abstracts will be reviewed by the Computational Culture Editorial Board and
the special issue editors.

Authors of selected abstracts will be notified by May 1, 2018 and invited
to submit full manuscripts by September 15, 2018.

These manuscripts are subject to full blind peer review according to
Computational Culture’s policies. The issue will be published in March 2019.

Computational Culture is an online open-access peer-reviewed journal of
interdisciplinary enquiry into the nature of cultural computational
objects, practices, processes and structures.




Dr. Anne Helmond | Assistant Professor of New Media and Digital Culture
University of Amsterdam | Turfdraagsterpad 9 | 1012 XT  Amsterdam | The
http://www.uva.nl/profile/a.helmond | http://www.annehelmond.nl/ |

Highlighted publication:

Helmond, Anne. 2015. “The Platformization of the Web: Making Web Data
Platform Ready.” Social Media + Society 1 (2). doi:10.1177/2056305115603080.

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