FACULTY OF HUMANITIES MA IN NEW MEDIA AND CULTURE THESIS
LIFE ‘ON THE MOVE’ – WHERE ARE WE HEADING? THE MOBILE PHONE, MOBILE ECOSYSTEM AND INNOVATION IN SERVICES.
SUPERVISOR: SEBASTIAN SCHOLZ STUDENT: OLGA PARASKEVOPOULOU - 6248217 EMAIL ADDRESS: OLGA.SKP@GMAIL.COM
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Abstract ................................................................................................................................ 4 Introduction ......................................................................................................................... 5 1] Urban Spaces and Mediated Communication .............................................................. 8 From Virtuality to Mobility....................................................................................... 8 From Hybrid Space to Urban Sentience. ................................................................... 9 The Information Ecosystem. ................................................................................... 11 Accessing the datacloud. ......................................................................................... 13 The importance of software in the future of the Mobile web. ................................. 15 2] Society and technology.................................................................................................. 17 The mechanics of social interaction. ....................................................................... 17 Social connections and networks............................................................................. 18 Participatory urbanism............................................................................................. 21 Criticism over the use of mobile devices................................................................. 22 3] The device and network operators .............................................................................. 25 The pervasiveness of the mobile device. ................................................................. 25 Unique characteristics. ............................................................................................ 26 Mobile context ........................................................................................................ 27 Mobile activities and discovery of content.............................................................. 29 The evolution of the device and the role of the operator......................................... 32 4] Mobile services .............................................................................................................. 36 The software era. ..................................................................................................... 36 Leveraging the Web or a new proprietary paradigm? ............................................. 37 Service economy: the browser vs. native apps ........................................................ 39 Apps and the App Store........................................................................................... 41 A review of iOS and Android applications. ............................................................ 44 Categorization of mobile apps by content. .............................................................. 46
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5] Concluding remarks...................................................................................................... 52 The next big thing.................................................................................................... 52 From theory to practice. .......................................................................................... 53 Sustainable and ‘open’ development....................................................................... 56 Building a community of app makers...................................................................... 57 Bibliography....................................................................................................................... 59
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This thesis is an exploratory journey into the vast mobile ocean. We will review the process of how the Web has merged with the physical spaces through the use of mobile phones and specifically designed applications and services. This requires the documentation of new media and communication theory, social theory as well as to delve into the corporate and commercial world in order to shed light into the history, evolution and turns in the mobile field. As we will examine, it is yet to be determined whether the mobile ecosystem will leverage a proprietary paradigm or innovation would stem from collaborative efforts that will strive for the prevalence of open systems and open source software. Open innovation refers to the ways companies can benefit from distributed knowledge, external ideas and external routes to market. This informs the idea that most successful innovation happens not as a linear process but in environments which encourage the circulation of ideas and approaches. Throughout this journey we will attempt to determine the defining aspects of mobile innovation and finally speculate on the future of the ecosystem.
Mobile phone, mobile communication, mobile ecosystem, mobile applications, Web 2.0, Web 3.0, open innovation.
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“Technologies are not simply inventions which people employ, but are the means by which people are reinvented” –Mc Luhan.
The main research questions that motivated the writing of this thesis revolve around mobility and software development for mobile devices. When the mobile parameter enters existing communication systems, human relationships or the new technologies market-share, system dynamics change, human connections are recalibrated and different market models are enabled. These are some of the changes that mobility has brought within the eleven years of its existence while it continues to renegotiate and question what is known and what we expect to come. The urge to discover, understand, describe and criticize the radical impact of the mobile, in almost every aspect of contemporary life, drove the study of the researcher. In the next pages the reader will unfold this study and follow the steps that the researcher had to take in order to gain a better understanding of the complex mobile ecosystem. After reading this paper more questions will be raised than resolved and more questions will remain in doubt than answered. This event reflects the nature of the mobile ecosystem which is in constant flux, yet to be theorized and perceived and yet to take its form. An initial inspiration for a way to perceive the changes that the mobile brings to life came from the book “Mobile Lives” by Elliot and Urry. “Freedom of movement is the ideology and utopia of the twenty-first century” the writers claim, an assertion that the researcher kept in mind and found useful throughout her research process. As they further explain, mobility provides the overarching narrative, depicting the relation of each life ‘on the move’ to the micro electronics, software – operated communications and mobility systems. The rise of an intensively mobile society reshapes the self – its everyday activities, interpersonal relations with others, as well as connections with the wider world (Elliot & Urry, 2010). As another influential writer describes it, “our body and mind is extended and augmented in networks of interaction powered by microelectronics-based, software-operated, communications technologies” (Castells, 2004). These academic studies theorize the changes observed in communication, social and business field into abstract research schemes for enabling their description, comparison, analysis, and/or categorization. But how can we predict what is going to happen and how could we even interfere and influence this process in the making?
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In the conclusion of the her book, Baym (2010) mentions that, for those who vividly remember life without the internet and the mobile phone, they may still seem like they came out of nowhere and took over our lives. Some people adopt with ease new technology, some are skeptical and some obstinately refuse to incorporate these advents in their life. “What makes a modern man 1 ?” Pazolini asked this question back in 1963 as he felt more comfortable holding himself back in tradition. In the digital age, just as at the dawn of writing, media evoke questions about what does it mean to be authentically human. Although this may be a profound human quest form the very beginning of our existence, it is a question that this paper will not confront with. We will rather presume that the limited powers of humans are almost always augmented by various material worlds, of clothing, objects, paths, machines, buildings and so on. In this line of thought a core question is, what does it mean to extend ourselves with the technology that is being made available? To answer that question, rather than projecting dreams or fears of the kind of society that will result in the future, we strongly believe that we should root ourselves in the observation of the present. This paper will review the process of how the Web has merged with the physical spaces through the use of mobile phones and specifically designed applications and services. The mobile ecosystem is a lot more complicated field of research than the communication study and theorization of what has been described as the hybridization of space or the spatialization of the Internet. The examination of mobile trends and software development for new applications and services for example, will unveil a multilayered and inter-dependent ecosystem in which software design and development only consists the very last layer. However, in order to gain an understanding of how mobile trends change our everyday life we need to take under consideration all the layers underneath, their architecture and opposing dynamics. This thesis is an exploratory journey into the vast mobile ocean. It starts from reviewing communication and new media theory in an attempt to document the changes in how theory perceives and conceptualizes the transformations in the communicational space. Those changes are all taking place in the beginning of the 21st century and are depicted in the way scholars theorize the transformations that they observe. Following that, the researcher delves into social theory to gain insight into the social transformations that are attributed to mobile communication and critiques stemming from the friction of technology and society.
Pier Paolo Pasolini's poem is pronounced by Orson Wells in his short film La ricotta (1963). In that poem Pasolini states that he is a force of the Past, that his love lies only in tradition but he still feels more modern than any modern man in search of brothers no longer alive. His poem may well criticize the modern way of living and the changes that technology has brought in our everyday lives. A modern man, may be “a monster born of a dead woman’s womb”.
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Although the introduction of mobile phones into our everyday lives has fueled research in communication and social sciences it should be acknowledged that it is also a field of business, and a very competitive one. For that reason, this thesis is also sailing into the corporate and commercial sea to shed light to the history, evolution and latest turns in the mobile ecosystem. This journey into the corporate world and business development reveals the different opponents and rival business plans that affect the evolution of the mobile ecosystem and define its future development. The importance of documenting, criticizing and raising awareness about those different plans stems from their main ability to determine the openness or closeness of the mobile ecosystem. They also reflect the role of the user in the mobile market and how her needs and expectations are determined and treated. Consequently, in our attempt to provide an overview of the defining aspects of mobile innovation we will focus on the market leaders, as to understand how the mobile ecosystem is growing and taking its form we need also to understand the competing nature of corporation strategies. Although, within the mobile ecosystem there are several important players, we shall focus on the primary ones, on the one hand, Google and the Google search engine as well as, their Android platform for mobile phones and on the other hand, Apple corporation, focusing on the very influential release of the iPhone and the Apple store. Arguably, the modern mobile phone is a communication and information device that is capable of doing nearly everything a desktop computer can do, but with the potential for more meaningful relevance to our daily activities (Fling, 2009). We increasingly use mobile phones to navigate through the day and to coordinate our activities. It is an object that has become symbolically located in our sense of culture and identity (Ling, 2008). However, it has also to be acknowledged that everything this paper will discuss is happening in a context which only some sectors of the global populations can access or engage.
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1] URBAN SPACES AND MEDIATED COMMUNICATION
F ROM V IRTUALITY TO M OBILITY .
As was famously quoted by new media theorist, Lev Manovich (2002), while the 1990s where about the virtual, the 2000s will turn again to the physical. And his statement was nothing but true. In his book written back in 2005, McCullough also observes that, digital networks are no longer separate from architecture. Pervasive computing is inscribed into the social and environmental complexity of the existing physical environment. His observation highlights an ongoing transformation of the urban landscape: the cities we live in, the streets we are walking down, are no longer limited to our perceptual horizon as we are increasingly enabled to interact with a network of information and expand our urban experience. New technological promises focusing on smart devices, ubiquitous technology, and location detection, have changed anticipations about the evolution of mediated communication. These transformations were driven by new technological advents which challenged both the idea that digital networks only run in parallel and remain separate from real life, as well as, that people would end up communicating with each other primarily in digital spaces. The claim is that urban spaces are becoming hybridized (de Souza e Silva, 2006). This hybrid nature of space refers to the augmentation of the physical terrain with digital layers of information and communication which aim to enrich the urban experience and enhance everyday human practices. These claims renewed the interest in exploring how human connections are being evolved within the physical space, as it became increasingly accepted that digital communication does not eliminate place. By contrast it was suggested that mediated mobile connections redefine the meaning of place as anywhere from which the individual chooses or needs to communicate (Castels, et al., 2007). Following those claims, instead of emphasizing the invisibility of the pervasive device or the virtuality of human encounters, we are going to investigate how the mobile phone increasingly enables and provokes interaction with the Web within the daily physical contexts of human activity. In this exploration, the time and space of the interaction are important elements as long as they provide the framework for mobile activities. Therefore, those activities are in most cases performed in real time and they leverage the user’s location. They confirm the claim that “even in an age in which distance has been annihilated, location still matters” (McCullogh, 2005). After people themselves, place is the topic on which the greatest number of us have something to say. Place is a notion that comes to stress personal attachment to and perception of space. Is therefore, both socially constructed and personally perceived. For that reason, although perceptions of space and place may be subjective and fleeting, it remains absolutely necessary to ground them in effective contexts (McCullough,
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2005). As McCullough further explains, the ‘context’ is not the setting itself, but the engagement with it, as well as the bias (either human or systemic) that setting gives to interactions that occur within it. For that reason he values the design principles that will form the base for these new technologies to be built around everyday life. The design of information –and in extension of mobile services- expands its subject from artifacts to their contexts. Early theoretical approaches (Ito et al., 2005) have examined mobile adoption and penetration in Asia and they have early recognized that the mobile phone (keitai) was not so much about a new technical capability or freedom of motion but about a snug and intimate technosocial tethering, a personal device supporting communications that were a constant, lightweight and mundane presence in everyday life. Arguably, by carrying and making use of their mobile phones while they are ‘on the move’, city dwellers blur the traditional borders between the physical and digital spaces, and transform their everyday contexts of action. What makes movement and mobility two key terms in theorizing urban communication and the interaction with the cloud, is the fact that movement renegotiates the context of interaction, enables micro-coordination ‘on the move’, and ultimately makes connections more fluid and flexible forming patters or what are known as networks.
F ROM H YBRID S PACE TO U RBAN S ENTIENCE .
But how have these ‘hybrid urban environments’ and mobile networks of human interaction emerged and what has fueled the optimistic rhetoric surrounding them? An increasing number of projects that experimented with location detection technologies to associate information and meaning to specific locations, was only made possible after the removal of the signal degradation called Select Availability (SA) from the Clinton Administration. The possibility to use the GPS technology for other than military purposes gave birth to many commercial, artistic and research projects that urged to explore, understand and make use of the new possibilities afforded by this technology. Location-based applications, RFID tags and sensors were widely used and boosted claims and critiques tailored around the transformation of urban space. Although this transformation had been underway at least since the first mobile handheld devices were connected to the Internet, from 2003 onwards it was manifested with a more systematic and optimistic rhetoric, with the advent of what was called ‘locative media’. More precisely, this rhetoric was built against the virtual reality paradigm and as, Manovich foresaw, reclaimed the physical space as the context for interpersonal communication and interaction. de Souza e Silva (2006) was one of the first scholars to stress the significance of these interactive communication environments, through which “virtual
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worlds immigrate from the Internet to urban spaces”. While the Internet allowed physical meeting places to “immigrate” to a “virtual” spatial context, the introduction of mobile location-based communication networks was thought to relate again the concept of a “meeting place” to the physical space of an urban environment. Thus, it was manifested that social computing which was previously restricted to the Internet, was now brought back into the urban realm. The promise of locative media as it was manifested during 2006-2008, was to bring back our attention to the social, cultural and inter-subjectively constructed aspects that characterize urban space. In many cases this was manifested through art practices that experimented with the possibilities, limitations and consequences of the technology. Location aware mobile applications became popular in the US and Western Europe around 2008, after the release of the iPhone 3G, even though NTT DOCOMO, the main Japanese mobile phone provider, had released the first mobile phone with a GPS receiver since 2003. Although the ‘locative media’ paradigm drew the attention of many scholars to the possibilities afforded by the use of GPS technology, as de Waal and de Lange (2008) 2 note, it is hard to make a true division between locative media and the broader category of mobile media. Location awareness is an important yet complementary feature of the mobile devices that people carry with them. Our focus consequently, will not be placed solely on location detection technologies but our investigation will deal with the emergence of an information ecosystem that is created in real-time, ‘on the move’ and leverages the urban context of the user. This ecosystem reflects the dynamics of a mobile network of people and content that is progressively connecting local data within the infinity of global access. The new premise is that mediated human interaction becomes socially integrated and spatially contingent (mobile) as everyday objects and spaces are linked through networked computing. In 2009, the Architecture League in NY organized an exhibition titled “Sentient City” which resulted in a series of publications called “Situated Technologies Pamphlets”. The artist and architect Mark Shepard who curated the exhibition, asserted that increasingly, it is the ‘datacloud of the 21st century urban space’ that shape our experience of the city. As it is further explained (de Waal, 2011), it is not the city itself that perceives or even is sentient, but rather all the actors and the devices that they operate in the urban context. As long as, information is permanently stored in servers on the Internet and cached temporarily on clients, urban sentience refers to those devices that serve as interfaces to the cloud. In a number of social theories we observe attempts to conceptualize this “sentient urbanism”, ranging from warning critical theories concerning ‘the demise of urban public spaces’ and
Conference text that can be found on the Mobile City website http://www.themobilecity.nl/backgroundinformation/lang_enconference-textlang_enlang_nlconferentie-tekstlang_nl/ (last accessed on 3/8/2011)
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‘isolated individuality’ to the empowering possibilities of ‘flash mobs’ as well as, the ‘emergence of new forms of publicness and exchange’.
T HE I NFORMATION E COSYSTEM .
Considering the fact that our daily experience may be transformed and to a certain extent enhanced by our interaction with the cloud, we need to investigate the way this information is structured, interconnected and accessed. The Internet provides the means to connect computers and handheld devices, and thereby is constituting a world-wide information infrastructure. Both Internet and the World Wide Web are technologies in the making and consequently they are transforming themselves as much as they are transforming societies (Schaefer, 2008:127). In its relatively short time span, the Web has grown exponentially to almost 2 billion users, as in March 2011 3 , creating services, providing information, connecting people, creating new jobs and completely new sectors of activities. However, the ultimate vision, shared by both the inventor of the Web Tim Berners-Lee and the W3C since 1994, is to provide Universal Web Access: The Web anywhere, for everyone, at anytime, on everything. From a technical perspective, the Internet is the interconnected ‘network of networks’ that is accessible via standard IP addresses. The Web is built on top of the Internet and uses HTTP to transmit requests and responses. However, apart from the technical implications of such digital technologies and infrastructures, scholars are mainly interest in the implications they have on the individual self. People do not just use or activate digital technologies in everyday life but the self becomes deeply layered within technological networks, as well as reshaped by their influence (Elliot & Urry, 2010). Web 2.0 is usually understood as a largescale shift toward a collaborative and participatory version of the Web, were users are able to get involved and create content (Beer, 2009). More precisely, the term Web 2.0, coined by O’Reilly (2004), entails a certain set of qualities, such as dynamic, interoperable, usercentered, open, collectively intelligent and a certain set of web technologies that facilitate easy publishing and content sharing, as well as the establishment of social networks. What is interesting is that this discourse has unfolded simultaneously with the building and the evolution of the technologies. Consequently the imagination and promotion of the Web 2.0 and it’s beneficial use was inseparable from the parallel development of the technology. These technological developments abetted media commentators to foresee on the one hand the enlargement of the social capital and an ongoing process of democratization (Beer & Burrows, 2007) and on the other hand the rise of the amateur (Keen, 2007) and the demise of online content quality.
The Internet World Stats website http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm (last accessed on 23/7/2011)
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What happens when the Web 2.0 qualities go beyond the desktop computer and are applied also on mobile use? Studies and market reports confirm that the mobile Web grows faster than the ‘wired’ Web and that mobile activities are proliferating, while at the same time they confirm the dominance of social networking (Khan, 2009). At the same time, what differentiates and adds value to mobile web or accessing the Internet from a mobile device, is that it also has the unique ability to add context to digital information. Adding context means to add immediate relevance to what we are doing right here, right now. In that sense, hardware and software development is in a large extent driven by the need to make cloud interactions meaningful in their given context. As we will review later on, the mobile phone indeed gave rise to the need to design for context, for understanding the circumstances under which people that communicate find themselves. Media context is not just about the immediacy of the information we receive – it also can be used to engage audiences in real time, something that other mediums cannot do. The ubiquity of networked information is therefore becoming intimately aligned with the perceptual realities of everyday life. Apart from the immediacy in content and real time engagement, the European
Union’s ‘Web 3.0’concept, is advocating that devices will also become themselves creators of content. In European level discussions and programmatic declarations, the greatest significance is attached to the acceleration and reinforcement of innovation processes. In a Commission report, in particular (2008) 4 , Viviane Reding asserts that “The Internet of the future will radically change our society, Web 3.0 means seamless 'anytime, anywhere' business, entertainment and social networking over fast reliable and secure networks. It means the end of the divide between mobile and fixed lines. It signals a tenfold quantum leap in the scale of the digital universe by 2015. Europe has the know-how and the network capacity to lead this transformation. We must make sure that Web 3.0 is made and used in Europe”. Interconnectivity for what is also called ‘The Internet of Things’ could be achieved via the cloud by using sensor-based mobile devices. In a futuristic scenario where the Web meets the world, waving the phone like a magic wand will trigger sensors via the cloud to trigger new services (Jaokar & Gatti, 2009). This scenario would be realized through the emergence of “sensor based applications”. Those will be accessed by smartphones that contain microphones, cameras, motion sensors, proximity sensors and location sensors. At the same time, the need for explicit metadata will diminish, as our cameras, our microphones,
European Commission Report http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/08/1422&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&g uiLanguage=en (last accessed on 27/7/2011)
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will become the eyes and ears of the Web, our motion sensors, proximity sensors its propioception, GPS its sense of location 5 . The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) 6 has defined cloud computing as follows: “Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort of service-provider interaction”. However, so far the concept of the Internet of things is driven by the academia while for the actual implementation of new mobile services ubiquitous Internet coverage is important yet not a prerequisite. Mobile data services for example, offer a viable and growing alternative means of accessing the World Wide Web and have drawn significant attention from the mobile industry. The future of mobile and its relation to the cloud could connote wireless interaction between appliances, sensors and other devices using the Internet to dynamically generate and adapt on-the-fly Web content, at the moment of the client request, but there are ways to route around this ubiquitous scenario. This is exemplified by Apple’s vision of the iCloud where the focus is placed on the Apple device and not on the cloud. Different views about mobile and software development signal that technological innovation has to face competing strategies and to overcome obstacles both in the server and client side of the mobile infrastructure. An unfettered and free mobile implementation of the Web 2.0 qualities is not a straightforward idea within the mobile ecosystem.
A CCESSING THE DATACLOUD .
According to Manovich (2002), technological tools transform physical space into a datascape extracting data from it or augmenting it with data. If we accept that the presence of the database influences urban practices, it is important to scrutinize just how the database is composed and ultimately integrated into the city. Understanding the infrastructure of this information in not just a matter of engineering but also a question of freedom and control over the devices and software we use. “What we know or don’t know about how this ecosystem works can influence how much freedom, wealth and participation we will have” (Rheingold, 2010). Who will control the freedom to innovate online? Why do the politics of search engines matter? Are search engines strong gatekeepers, with great deal of autonomous influence in directing Web traffic or are search engines simply mediators, mirroring existing institutions and social structures? (Hindeman, 2008).
Reviewing sensor based applications (i.e. Augmented Reality browsers) is beyond the scope of the present paper. NIST definition of cloud computing http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/drafts/800-145/Draft-SP-800-145_clouddefinition.pdf (last accessed on 3/8/2011)
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Web search is critical to our ability to search the Internet. Whoever controls search engines has enormous influence on us all. They can shape what we read, who we listen to, and who gets heard (Grimmelman, 2008/2009). It is not surprising, that Google’s aspiration from the beginning of its existence has been “To organize the World’s information and make it Universally accessible”. Although Google has claimed that is stays out of politics and keep their personal views out of the search engine, evidence has suggested that governments are far from powerless when it comes to controlling search engines and specific interests could affect the architecture of the Internet and threaten the medium’s openness. Apart from the fact that we get different results in different countries, suppressive regimes can choose what results they don’t want to appear in their countries. As Grimmelman asserts “The truth may be out there. It’s just not on Google”. As search results are thought to contain everything relevant; users are less likely to pursue things that fall outside of them. Moreover, as Rogers describes (2009), without human contact, building a relationship lies in the form of technology chosen to collect user data, and subsequently to personalize salutations, alerts, adverts as well as recommendations. Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineLand.com, is covering aspects of search engines and search marketing for over 15 years now. He has asserted that one of the greater significances of personalized search is that “the days of everyone seeing the same results for any particular query are growing more numbered”. The story authored by the search engine results in now partly of one’s own writing while this profiling of tastes follows one’s key words (search history) and geography (IP address and GPS).This personalization process takes s step even further with the use of mobile devices as the phone responds not only to the user but also to the surrounding of the user making suggestions by her location and movement patterns. The information ecosystem is therefore comprised of people and their data, and for accessing this information it is necessary to make the world searchable. As users seem to be willing to give out private information depending on the convenience and usefulness of the service or application offered to them, this tradeoff may result in a problematic situation in which users are unaware of who owns this information and how it may be used. The need for localizing mobile content and personalizing the device and interface arises from the one’s desire to exercise power over the immense data cloud. However, relying to Google’s search engine or to Apple’s software for empowering the user to take control over the information she acquires and creates could be problematic and for that reason we need to investigate how these giant firms are actually planning to satisfy those expectations and what they would ask in return. Indicative of the problematic nature of these events is the statement of Peter Norvig speaking on behalf of Google who advocates that, “We do not have better algorithms than
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anyone else, we just have more data”. O’Reilly explains this strategic shift (in Anderson, 2010) by saying that nowadays “it’s the back-end that matters”. What is of importance in the increasing data-driven services (user identity, location, payment, advertising, media repositories and products ids) as the back-end. So what he foresees (O’Reilly & Battelle, 2009) is that data subsystems will distinguish players in the mobile game.
T HE IMPORTANCE OF SOFTWARE IN THE FUTURE OF THE M OBILE WEB .
The transition from the Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 qualities has been called “Network as platform” computing. Users can provide the data that is on a Web 2.0 site and exercise some control over that data. These sites provide an “Architecture of participation” that encourages users to add value to the application as they use it. The exchange of user-generated content results is an endless production and reproduction of thoughts, in a public interplay of
voices which is ultimately building through interaction an immense database of information. Already from 1999, Lawrence Lessing argued that the Internet was governed not just by laws and norms, but also software. People therefore use aggregators, social network sites and applications to consume, produce, and share micro content such as blog posts, tweets, status updates and mobile check-ins. As the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg argues bluntly, “Facebook may be the biggest source of news in the world”. Users have come to rely to this feeling of freedom in personal and social consumption. The ‘places’ that we consequently visit on the Web are all intimately connected, filtered through our personal interests and machine aggregators. In addition to this feeling of freedom in consumption, users have also a feeling of control over their mobile devices by personalizing and localizing their mobile content and activities. This swift is being reinforced by the trend in mobile to use the Internet as transport, with data-driven services as the back end. When the network’s architecture cultivates a mastering of an immense amount of data, it also provides the conditions for one to be mastered by it. As Gordon and de Souza e Silva (2011: 135) note, the disclosure of one’s personal information and location coordinates is necessary for mobile applications to work and this leads to anxiety of eventually losing control of our personal data and being tamed by the devices that are meant to serve us. How this constant mobile interaction and flow of UGC will be managed by the mobile applications and services is a challenge for the future of Mobile Web. The rise of realtime connection of people, content and things, in combination with context awareness is what makes mobile computation powerful but is also where threats over privacy, control, and freedom of use are laying. As it was shown before, data is interpreted by software algorithms and actuation devices, and when we say interpreted we refer to data being aggregated into an accessible and usable bit of information. Data creation, acquisition and representation is not
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only important for functionality issues, but the way data will be treated will form the ethics around them. As we will review in the fourth section, innovation in the mobile ecosystem relies heavily on software. Big software companies like Apple, Google and Facebook are now driving the evolution in mobile, by contrast hardware companies like Nokia and Samsung as well as network operators are losing their lead. The proliferation of mobile applications (apps) and App Stores are providing a new information paradigm that challenges the notion of the traditional Web, as well as, mobile web access and the Web 2.0 qualities as we know them. This new paradigm does not rely on the web browser and pages but provides new ways of packaging, personalizing, discovering, monetizing, interacting and measuring information. The notion of the Web 3.0 in mobile inaugurates a business model change which makes a move from the discovery and distribution model of the 2.0 paradigm into new walled gardens controlled by the few. Questions that we are going to address later on will relate to the openness or closeness of mobile innovation and the open source economics. But first we are going to examine the relationship between technology and society, as innovations – whether technological or social in nature – are developed under concrete cultural conditions. New communication systems afforded by mobile technology are very much depended on software platforms which are build by device makers and developers. Before going into the specifics of the mobile phone and software we will review the social implications of mobile communication .
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2] SOCIETY AND TECHNOLOGY
T HE MECHANICS OF SOCIAL INTERACTION .
To understand the social penetration and impact of new media, we need to consider both technology’s specificity and architecture, and the personal, cultural and historical
presumptions and values that those characteristics evoke. This is important because when people explain and evaluate the consequences of a new medium in terms of technological, social, or some combination of these forces, they rely on theoretical assumptions about causality and specificity of the technology (Baym, 2010). This chapter aims in exploring how digital technology and patterns of its use shape today’s culture and ways that we could approach this dialogical relationship to enhance and enrich this experience. In the previous chapter, we have examined the notion of urban sentience, the evolving nature of an
information ecosystem that is build in real-time and ‘on the move’, and we touched upon the implications of software innovation. In this section, and before we move on to a more detailed examination of the mobile ecosystem, we will document key concepts that appear in the discourse driven by social science; as to be able to investigate technology, we need to first look and try to understand humans and society (Moore, 2008). From a communication and social perspective, a question that needs to be addressed is whether new technologies inaugurate new social ties. By reviewing the new social conditions that have emerged and the role of communication and mobility within those, we are certainly inclined to answer ‘yes’. As Baym describes in her book (2010), the question whether we are depended upon the technological tools or are the tools products of social needs has been to the point of social discourse for long time. Mobile communication in particular, is throughout the whole world, a pervasive means of communication, mediating social practice in all spheres of human life. However, according to Castells (2007), it is adopted, adapted, and modified by people to fit their own practices, according to their needs, values, interests, and desires. People shape communication technology, yet, the specificity of the technology reflects into the ways in which people conduct their lives. This dialogical relationship of society and technology helps grounding the technological effects and implications to the technology’s specific capabilities (hardware and software) and consequences. In addition, it reminds us that the way public perceptions are formed, contribute significantly to policy making processes and the formation of usage patterns in the long run. Mobile is more than just being wireless, it suggests an entirely different user experience and mobility, accordingly, has become a central theme in social discourse, as long as people and data are ‘on the move’. Mobile technologies assist in connecting, understanding and discovering meaningful aspects entailed by the various time-space dislocations of life ‘on
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the move’. Social changes are, therefore, implicated in the ever-increasing movement of people, things, capital, information and ideas around the globe (Elliot &Urry, 2010). Elliot & Urry argue that today’s culture of mobile lives is substantially created in and through the deployment of various miniaturized mobilities – mobile phones, laptop computers, wireless connections. Can a new social structure of human agency be derived through systems of movement? These dislocations have been examined by social theory and their impact over the public space and social cohesion has been often criticized. As the mobile phone is one of the most influential devices, and it is increasingly becoming the main interface that connects dislocated people with each other and with the world, it has provoked opposing allegations. Mobile phones are characterized by their personal, private, and, in certain cases, intimate use. For that reason - although according to Ballard, fundamentally, ‘mobile’ refers to the user, and not the device or application-, the handset itself can be seen as a communicational node, always attached to a person- of the social network. It becomes interesting to investigate how people, by accessing the internet from their mobile communication devices, are becoming the nodes of multiple communication channels. In contrast to the fixed telephone, these devices are the multipurpose, multi-connecting points in the network of communication, and are carried by users who wander through physical spaces.
S OCIAL CONNECTIONS AND NETWORKS .
Communication is at the heart of human activity in all spheres of life, for that reason the technological advents allowing multimodal communication from anywhere to anywhere where there is appropriate infrastructure, raise a wide range of fundamental questions. How do we confront the issue of co-presence? How do human encounters are being mediated through these new communication channels? For example, interacting synchronously or asynchronously with those that are not in close physical proximity, participating in social networks by disclosing our location, detaching ourselves from our immediate environment, or enhancing our everyday productivity by using applications on our mobile phones, are just some of the common practices that people perform today in their urban environments. Are those practices naturally incorporated in our lives? Do people feel that they master these new communication channels or they feel tamed by overwhelming conditions? In their study, Varnelis and Friedberg (2006), observe that contemporary life is dominated by the pervasiveness of the network. A statement like this most likely evokes suspicion and dilemmas about how this pervasiveness of the network may affect, shape and alter contemporary culture and social stability. According to Alan Moore (2008), this networked and interactive nature of the Internet enabled us to actually get back to what makes
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us what we truly are – a collaborative and networking species. Although an important part of the academic discourse would provide many arguments to confront this kind of assessment, we cannot argue against the fact that nowadays face-to-face encounters constitute only one level of human interaction. We could not also argue against the fact that, digital technologies do not offer inauthentic simulations that detract or substitute for real engagement. Consequently, a more moderate and dialectical assertion would argue that what happens through mediation is interwoven and in direct relation with everything else (Baym, 2010). The emergence of portable, communications-based systems, have therefore transformed to a certain degree the production, organization, and dissemination of interpersonal communication, information-sharing and knowledge transfer. More precisely, mobile computation, apart from offering spatial mobility, also allow us to move between times and interpersonal contexts (Baym, 2010). Influential studies, as the analysis of the Networked Society, have attempted to grasp and explain these changes and have observed that indeed time, space and activities, blur in to a new frame of chosen time, space (Castells et al., 2007). Should we in that case argue, that multipurpose communication dematerialize social structure and reconstruct it around individually centered networks of interaction? The mobile phone, as various forms of technology in the past, has also figured in the tension between the collective and individual impulses of society. To understand how social connections are being transformed and how the mobile phone may affect our sense of solidarity, scholars often make references to, amongst others, Putnam’s (2002), Coleman’s (1988) and Wellman’s observations about the way social cohesion is achieved or not with the use of new communication mediums. Ling (2008), attempts to exemplify that while there is an increasing tilt toward individualism in many contexts, ritual interaction is still a central function of the collective. What he concludes, is that while in some situations the use of mediated interaction plays out against the co-present situation, it is also possible to say that mobile communication strengthens the nature of the small group. The question revolves around our ability to maintain social cohesion as we adopt the use of information and communication technologies and thus become less co-present and cotemporal. Wellman (2003) argues that a crucial social transformation of late modernism is a shift away from tightly bounded communities towards increasing “networked individualism” in which each person sits at the center of her own community. A trend pointed out by several scholars, such as William Mitchel (2003), is that also places are becoming individualized and networked, as a result and along with, the specific networks of individual practices. The idea of a person as a portal, unties the self and reconfigures identity as dispersed, adrift, ‘on the
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move’ while extending her co-presence beyond the physical into a networked environment. While the use of mobile devices in public might reduce the frequency of these familiar, polite, social rituals, it is simultaneously extending and modifying those rituals into less familiar contexts (Gordon & Souza e Silva, 2011). The culture of individualism does not lead to isolation, but it changes the patterns of sociability and the trend of increasingly forming networks is one of the consequences. Describing the emergence of the network capital, Elliot and Urry indicate that the term refers to another form of power that stems from the extension and elaboration of the mobility field. Network capital is a fundamental aspect of current social processes and lies at the core of generating novel experiences in distant places and with others at-a-distance. However, in their analysis, the production of daily life does not rely on human agency and they assert that the social structure and individual life is substantially and increasingly constituted through systems of movement. In contrast to their view, other scholars have observed that networks destabilize structured hierarchies and provide an alternative form of cooperation one that transcends traditional ties. According to Castells, and his very
influential book, The Rise of the Networked Society (2000), networks can expand without limits by simply integrating new nodes that share the same means of communication with other nodes. Networks are much more flexible and malleable, because there is no overarching organizational or institutional shape. This contradiction between a systemic structure that excludes human agency and an elastic network based on human actions and interactions provides two different analytical view points. As we described in the first chapter, mediated connections have claimed to support lightweight, constant, everyday interactions in a better way. We will examine those interactions taking into account that the decisions that users make mater and the infrastructure may be transformed and reshaped based on human agency. From a social cohesion perspective, the lack of shared physical context and co-presence does not mean that interactants have no shared contexts at all , as well as, the growth of a networking culture does not necessarily imply that we move towards weak social relationships that cannot be translated to powerful organized networks (INC, G. Lovink 7 ). What Baym (2010) for
example argues, is that people come together around shared interests, transcending local communities in ways that may be personally empowering although potential polarizing, in the sense that there is no need for middle grounds. The fundamental purpose of communication technologies from their ancient inception has been to allow people to exchange messages
Institute of Networked Cultures http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/portal/ (last accessed 3/8/2011) Page | 20
without being physically co-present and mobile communication adds to that need opening up unfamiliar situations and uncertainties that may only be evaluated in the long run.
P ARTICIPATORY URBANISM .
Throughout the recent urban history there is a certain rhetoric that stands for the idea that the city dweller is an active agent and not a passive consumer (Gordon, 2010). The discourse about the transformative potential has been mainly optimistic claiming that the Web 2.0 will offer a better medium for the creation of a public sphere in which a truly democratic form of political debate could take place (Roberts, 2009). Users’ participation is often perceived as explicit, as an intended and conscious practice driven by a specific motivation. This rhetoric advocates social progress through technological development and aims to create expectations and understandings for technology. However, Schaefer provides a distinction between two types of participation in the Web 2.0 technologies. Schaefer distinguishes explicit participation, one that is more in alignment with Jenkins (2006) approach of the active engagement of media fans, from implicit participation, one that is channeled by design (Schaefer,2008:85). This distinction provides a way to examine participatory culture from a user’s motifs perspective but also from a more technical perspective as it brings to the fore the tactics and design decisions of the Web 2.0 developers, to put it in another way, the “back-end politics” and therefore, examines the role of technology itself. In contrast to explicit participation, the implicit is motivated by the easiness of use and the automation of the processes. Web 2.0 platforms do not require a common objective or shared values for the user’s participation although in their turn, they provide the means for certain user activities and benefit from the user-generated content. What Schaefer is asserting is that when participation in triggered by habits and not by certain objectives or skills, users instead of appropriating the technology are drawn by the design architecture and the human capacity for action is reduced to the affordances of the information technology. Their participation in this case is merely reinforcing the generation of semantic data that are used for the refinement of the system’s search engine contributing to the information management and the exploitation of such data for different purposes such as, improving information retrieval and marker research. A question that rises is, how much information is a user willing to share in order to participate? When it comes to the use of mobile phones for connecting with others and the world, locally contextualized data are increasingly disclosed enabling a new kind of participation, one that is made possible by locating oneself (Gordon & de Sousa e Silva, 2011). This practice is not merely a form of participation like a status update in our preferred social
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network, uploading a comment or sharing a post or link online, as it also positions the user within the network. It sets the conditions for interaction and provides the context from which information is interpreted and used. These new possibilities for urban participation and for locating ourselves into a network lead us again to some fundamental questions of what drives social participation and networking and if users are consciously taking advantage of a new medium to satisfy certain needs. In the last section of this paper, I will examine different types of mobile services and the ways people may engage themselves in real interactions in order to investigate to which extent participatory urbanism, as it is enabled by new mobile software, can claim for human agency and the rise of an active consumer.
C RITICISM OVER THE USE OF MOBILE DEVICES .
Assuming that every new technology creates a point in history where the familiar becomes unfamiliar, and therefore open to change, it is important to ask ourselves who uses these new digital media and why they adopt their use. In a further extend we may also ask ourselves what are the consequences both to an interpersonal level and to a collective level of social cohesion into the public space. Our efforts to make sense of the capabilities of digital media and their social consequences may seem endless as new media are constantly developing, new populations are taking up these tools, and new uses are emerging. A leitmotif in present-day society is that the mobile telephone has disturbed interaction in the local sphere. More than other forms of mediated interaction, mobile communication favors contact with those in our intimacy. Since we are always accessible, we have the ability to play on and develop those relationships, perhaps at the expense of our “loose ties”. A questions that arises concerns whether we are building our familiar walls around our interactions and in addition, if we are eventually excluding what is not personalized and close to us? The use of mobile phones in public spaces has been criticized claiming that they promote social disruption. These devices make communication possible in places where it wasn’t possible before, but also they intrude into face-to-face conversations where they never could before (Baym, 2010). Mediated interaction is thought to take precedence over the co-present and sets into the background face-to-face rituals. For that reason, we frequently observe an increased anxiety about mediating distance in expense of what is physically near. How are people incorporating digital media into their routine practices of relating and with what consequences? Many critics have lamented the decline of public spaces as they have cluttered with these outside connections. Another criticism against the social implications of the mobile phone concerns to extend to which the mobile device can claim openness and freedom in its use and the empowerment of the user. Mobile communication is said to enhance the autonomy of
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individuals, enabling them to set up their own connections, bypassing the mass media and the channels of communication controlled by institutions and organizations. But how real is this autonomy? (Castells et al., 2007). Criticisms concerning participatory urbanism are pointing out that active participation is not manifested simply because many have access to participatory technologies, nor because a data layer rests atop urban spaces. Both facts do not result to that everyone can access it nor eventually signify that spaces are rendered more democratic. In addition, we should also consider the possibility that someone is not connected to a network, is therefore not having any access to these information at all. Does that signifies that someone is closed off to a space’s potential? Would that provoke another type of social divide? (Gordon & Souza e Silva, 2011). Finally, a reoccurring concern related to the use of new technologies is the concern over the loss of privacy and loss of control over one’s personal information. As traces of the self are deposited in space and time, they can be retrieved for review or regulation at a moment’s notice. Are we in control of this process? For a healthy integration of technology to society the researcher assumes that being aware and sharing this knowledge is the only power that people have over obscurities stemming from back-end politics. Moving to a global online culture that is more participatory and that requires higher digital literacy skills is the primary benefit of the use of new digital media. This process of strengthening stems from the fact that more people are becoming engaged in the making, interpreting, and remaking of meaning and culture. As long as, people are self aware and engage with the technologies out of personal will and not of manipulation, “there is no need to fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons” (Deleuze, 1992). Moore assess (2008), that any technology that allow us to better connect, communicate, share knowledge, and get stuff done will be widely adopted. The term net locality that Gordon and de Souza e Silva have coined (2011), addresses context awareness as a feature that runs parallel to the technologies that enable it (i.e. GPS, web search, smart phones). In their point of view, as these technological tools are products of social needs they have been adopted because of the social desire to locate ourselves in relation to information. In that case they explain the use of mobile applications that use location detection as a fulfillment of a user’s preexisting need. Can we assume that a certain use of the mobile device is actually being provoked by a need to locate ourselves? Eric Gordon (2010), also attempts to understand what drives humans to make use of the new technologies . He reviews how the American city evolved historically in parallel to the technologies that enabled its appropriation and how the concept of the city has been transformed and reshaped. By examining human practices afforded by new technologies (starting from the handheld camera
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at the end of the nineteenth century to the mobile phone at the end of the twentieth), he investigates the cultural impulse to possess, control, and assemble the urban experience. Is this cultural impulse ushering the use of new digital technologies? Apart from possessing, controlling and assembling our own experience what other needs are those new devices fulfilling? But to begin with, can we determine human needs? For the purposes of the present paper, the author will assume that communication is a basic human need and that any technology that can do it better will eventually be widely intergraded into every day and will influence the way humans communicate. However, the point of view that people have certain predispositions such as, for example, the need to locate themselves is not shared with the author’s approach and following investigation on mobile services. In addition, instead of referring to people’s needs, in this paper we will prefer to refer to user expectations as it a term that has a more neutral meaning. An approach based on ways to participate and to engage with the new technologies through a test and trial process ushered both by market leaders but also by early adopters is perceived as a more demanding yet realistic approach. Instead of asking what mediation does to communication, we can also ask what people do with mediated communication (Ling, 2010) and to what extent they are aware of the conditions they expose themselves.
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3] THE DEVICE AND NETWORK OPERATORS
T HE PERVASIVENESS OF THE MOBILE DEVICE .
Arguably, mobile communication is the most successful and most rapidly adopted new technology in the world as more than one of every three people worldwide posses a mobile phone. Scholars analyze the effect of mobile communication on all parts of life, explore the ways mobile communication profoundly affects the tempo, structure, and process of daily life around the world. They also consider how quickly innovative technologies come to seem ordinary, even necessary and how mobile communication has affect the quality of life in both extraordinary and everyday settings, occupying a center stage in people's lives around the world. In this chapter, specific features of the mobile device will be reviewed in an attempt to demonstrate how technological characteristics on the one hand, and cellular networks on the other, affect the larger multi-layered mobile ecosystem and shape today’s mobile experience. As Tomi Ahonen has observed, the phone will impact our life in more ways than we can imagine, because of its multi-functionality aspect, and its reach. The telephone is said to be the most commonly used electronic device in the world today for two reasons. Apart from the fact that the total number of users has increased substantially over the last year, one of the most important shifts has been the increase in the frequency with which mobile phone owners use their devices to connect to content and people. This shift indicates that for many users, mobile has rapidly moved from an occasional activity, perhaps even novelty, to an essential service they depend on every day (comScore Report, 2010). Devices have evolved at a spectacular rate making the modern phone look like a very distant cousin to the traditional fixed telephone. The modern mobile phone, is a communication and information device operating at the edge of the network infrastructure and it becomes an integration point between the Web services, the network and the capabilities of the device itself. Instead of just facilitating interpersonal voice communication, it is nearly always connected to the Internet and it enables users to send and receive voice and text messages, as well as, buying goods and services. Having in addition the ability to locate where a user is, it may provide information about sites that are nearby. Throughout 2010, device technology continued to improve rapidly, providing the market with an increasing amount of technological features that renegotiated the mobile experience. The most important trends that the comScore survey remarked was the growth in mobile media usage which according to their analysis was largely attributable to the growth in smartphone adoption. A mobile device becomes a smartphone when it is equipped with
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web connectivity, location awareness and an operating system 8 . In order for a smartphone adoption to proliferate, 3G/4G device capabilities and the increasing ubiquity of unlimited data plans offered by the telecoms are usually prerequisites. The increasing prevalence of smartphones is documented by Gartner’s press release on May 2011 9 . According to their findings, worldwide communication device sales totaled 427.8 million units for only the first quarter of 2011, an increase of 19 percent from 2010. According to those figures it is argued that mobile devices have outpaced the majority of media we rely on every day, including computers. More people seem to access the Web via a mobile device than via a computer, and the disparity between the two numbers is growing year after year. As Tomi Ahonen points out, mobile phone comes in place of previous media and also have unique benefits. It is the first truly personal medium, always on, always carried, and at the point of the creative impulse. Ahonen makes an extreme comparison to stress his point saying that nowadays more people have a mobile phone than have access to running water. According to the numbers that he is providing, mobile reaches 72% of the planet’s population and is the first time that any technology has come close to this level of adoption 10 .
U NIQUE CHARACTERISTICS .
What distinguishes the mobile device from other media is the unique abilities that it posses; these are able to build user love and affection and are not possible on any other medium. According to the “7th Mass Media” theory and taxonomy, (Ahonen, 2008) the mobile device have eight exclusive abilities that distinguish it from all previous mass channels. It is “the first truly personal mass media”, as mobile devices offer a means to interact with information in a personal and intimate way. With the use of mobile devices we can do all the stuff that we do not want to publicly talk about. It is “the first always-on mass media”, users have the capability to send and receive information at all times, when they are in bed or even during their sleep. It is “the first always-carried mass media”, people never leave their mobile devices behind, as it has been observed if they forget it at home they will come back to retrieve it, what is more they seem to carry their devices everywhere they may be, even in the bathroom. It is “the only mass media with a built-in payment channel”, using our mobile phones we can purchase content, even goods and services by either charging the phone bill or through inscribing a credit card number like in the case of the App Store. The last capability is that it is “at the point of the creative impulse”, mobile devices enable users to create and publish in real time, in the moment the mood strikes to do so. Information and
Throughout the paper when we refer to mobile devices and phones we assume smartphones. Gartner website http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1689814 (last accessed on 27/7/2011) 10 Communities dominate brands, blog by T. Ahonen and A. Moore http://communitiesdominate.blogs.com/brands/2011/01/how-you-became-next-mogul-in-mobile-and-a-millionaire-the-new-yearsblog.html (last accessed 3/8/2011)
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experiences can through mobile phones be shared as they happen and from multiple points of view. In addition, according to Ahone’s taxonomy (2008), mobile is more than just a mass medium. It started as something else – an interpersonal communication channel - and has expanded to many things beyond being a mass medium, such as a payment technology, a media creation device, a fashion item and so on. That is, according to Ahonen, an ability that is 'something other than a media'. The first five mass media: print, recordings, cinema, radio and television are nowadays well known, with familiar formats, established business models and their own awards systems for excellence. The Internet is also a mass media channel, almost 20 years of age, however, it is still quite young, its evolving and affecting traditional media formats and opportunities. Mobile is the newest mass medium, only 11 years old. Mobile is the least-well understood mass media channel, still experimenting, and there are wide variances in how it performs as a mass medium comparing even neighboring countries around the world. However, what Ahonen stresses out is the fact that, mobile is the first mass media that is always present when we consume other mass media. For the first time, he observes, we have a "parallel" mass medium - that mobile is with us always when we consume any other media content (Ahonen, 2011). The comScore Inc. released in February 2011, the “2010 Mobile Year in Review” report, documenting trends in the mobile landscape throughout the U.S., Europe and Japan. This inaugural report was tailored around the important components of the mobile market including device trends, smartphone adoption, browser/application usage and mobile content consumption. Mark Donovan, the senior vice president of mobile, noted that 2010 was a game-changing year for the mobile industry: “Smartphone adoption, 3G penetration and unlimited data plans drove a surge of mobile media consumption across geographies and deepened the integration of mobile devices into everyday life. And, the coming year has the potential to be even more exciting. As the mobile ecosystem continues to develop, including progress in mobile advertising and commerce, it’s clear that mobile is destined to become an increasingly important platform for digital marketers across all industries”.
M OBILE CONTEXT .
According to Jaokar & Gatti (2009), the mobile device can be viewed as a social artifact. This fact implies that mobile is an object that is not molded in the past, but rather is evolving in the present time through the interplay between humans and technology. The evolution of the mobile device has always been driven by social factors: connecting sharing, learning about nearby places and consume information while ‘on the move’. The user’s mobile context can be defined as the set of and the intersection between facts, events,
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circumstances, and information that surrounds the user at any given point in time. Hence, the evolution of input and output technologies forms an important part of the evolution of mobile. What drives the evolution of the device and how it enables multiple actions to be performed at any given moment? The term metamedium was coined by Alan Kay (1984) to describe the medial character of the computer. This term was indicative of computer’s specificity as not just a simulation machine, but a vastly malleable canvas (Manovich, 2006). In this sense, the computer does more that merely ‘compute’ and similarly, a phone has now morphed into something more than an instrument for making and taking calls (Jaokar & Gatti 2009: 28). The term metamedium is now extended to describe the use of a mobile device. In line with Ahonen’s remarks, we can use mobile technology in place of previous media and what is more, it has the potential for contextual reference to our activities and needs. Thinking of the mobile phone more as personal computer and less as telephones is a difficult shift in perception. The mobile industry has many conflicting sides comprised of the telecom infrastructure, the manufactures of the devises people carry and the Web, both the desktop and the mobile web. The difference is not concerning technical aspects, at least in terms of the technology used to publish information and knowledge but stems from how they value the end user and her context. The desktop Web involves information we access typically while stationary and sitting at our desk. The mobile, contains the sites and web applications designed for mobile devices. Or for mobile context, which can be accessed anywhere at any time (Fling, 2009). Context may refer to the mode, medium or environment in which someone performs a task or the circumstances of understanding. When users engage themselves within a given context they are able to derive value from something they are currently doing, enhancing their experience and awareness of their surrounding in a significant way (Ling, 2009). The ability of the mobile device to be always carried, always on and at the point of the creative impulse has driven an increasing demand for designing for context. Context is the king, Moll (2007) argues, as access to web content on a mobile device is largely influenced by surrounding conditions, informational relevance to the task at hand, and the feature capabilities of the device being used. Developers are striving to leverage mobile technologies to address context. Context is perceived as the mental model in which information is understood. It is therefore perceived as the key concept that makes mobile such a powerful and useful medium. When mobile products are able to unlock the state of mind of the users and make them think in context, understanding how a mobile experience may add value to their lives, then this product is successfully taking advantage of its ability to relate mobile technologies
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meaningfully in everyday life. For Fling, a successful mobile product has to define its target group, the circumstances under which it will presented content, the time frame of the interaction, the physical environment and what value will that be offering. Addressing context takes not just an understanding of user-centered design principles, but of what roles mobile devices play in people’s lives. We will exemplify the association to context in the next section when we are going to see how software applications are trying to make use of the device features to create new experiences and interactions based on the different contexts where the mobile user finds herself. For all brands operating in the mobile space, whether it be device manufactures, operating systems, carriers or mobile content developers, knowing how users are interacting with mobile is critical in this increasingly competitive market. Some of the top mobile activities in the U.S. and the EU5 11 that the comScore report (2011) outlines are: sending text messages, taking photos, using connected media (i.e. use a browser, access applications, or download content), accessing news and information, accessing the weather or a social networking site or blog, accessing search and using maps. These activities render smartphone purchases increasingly sophisticated as users are looking not just for a phone, but for a device that is part of a larger ecosystem that provides complete mobile media experience. Apart from certain device specificities, these activities are also being enabled and depended on network quality and prices. What also has yet to be determined is whether the device will become an interface for free cloud interaction or content discovery will be channeled through the App Stores and accessed through specific paid or free applications.
M OBILE ACTIVITIES AND DISCOVERY OF CONTENT .
In the first chapter we reviewed how the Web functions as a platform for a wide spectrum of social interactions that have now started to form and flourish ‘on the move’. As mobile activities are concerned though, the ‘Web way’ for accessing content was not a straightforward one. Mobile phones acquired internet connection capabilities only when 2G was released, in the early 1990s. In those days, costumers had to pay for the amount of time they were connected and because connection speed was very slow, accessing the Web via a mobile phone was expensive. In late 1990s, the 2.5 G phones used the GPRS system that offered faster connection and allowed users to pay for the amount of data they used and not for the time they spend online. In continuation, the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), was one of the first technologies that attempted to provide users with a seamless interface to the Web. However, as mobile phone users in the US and Europe were used to accessing the Web via a desktop computer, for many users WAP could not give a complete Web experience
The term EU5 refers to UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
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and its use was not widely adopted . The advent of 3G promised fast network connection speeds and the ability to download and stream video and audio to mobile devices but still fell short of user’s expectations. This disappointment stemmed from the fact that 3G services were offered at very expensive rates and that providers adopted a top-down approach, making it very difficult for users to create their own mobile web content and mobile applications (Gordon & de Souza e Silva, 2011). Nowadays though, mobile activities and the overall experience can be a lot more satisfactory and the potential of the mobile Web has become obvious. Provided that ubiquitous internet coverage is enabled and smartphone use is widely adopted, mobile web promises access to online content anytime and anywhere. The
possibility of user-generated content is one of the main reasons for the popularity of the Web (Jenkins, 2006; Shirky, 2008) and it was no different with mobile phones. People were interested in 3G phones and networks only when user-friendly operating system where introduced (such as the iOS and Android) that enabled users to create their own mobile applications and easily interact with and produce content to the mobile web. If web 2.0 taught us that the web is the platform, then Mobile 2.0 tells us that mobile will be the primary context in which we leverage the web in the future (Fling, 2009). The mobile phone has enabled users to perform, with just a few short actions, personal and contextual tasks using a device they most likely have on them at that exact moment. This may not only affect human behavior to be more in tune, aware, and informed of their surroundings, but is also creates entirely new markets. These markets may either be based on the Mobile 2.0 paradigm or follow the new model that Apple has inaugurated with the invention of the App Store and distribution of content through mobile applications specifically designed for the device’s developing platform (the difference between developing software for the Web platform or for a specific device’s operating system will be examined in more detail in the next section). Media users have therefore, two ways to access mobile content, one is to browse through the mobile web or to access content through mobile applications. In the first case, the users may use the browser to search the Web to find what they are looking for, while in the latter, content is already categorized and designed to suit the needs of specific target groups and specific context of use. What is more, applications do not allow access to other web content than the one that they are designed to offer, nor they enable access to other applications or web content. In both cases, it is observed an ongoing shift towards contextual and personalized access to content. Adding context to information, adding immediate relevance to what we are doing right here, right now and what we are searching online is a unique benefit of the mobile web.
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In the first section we mentioned that in order to access the Web we almost always use a search engine. The way a user may be enabled to search for and discover content is important not only because it is depended on the hidden politics of the rank hierarchy and the algorithm, but also because content is immense. The Web is wide but often not deep in information meaning that although it provides us with enormous amounts of information, the majority may not be meaningful. By making the world searchable, we have the ability to locate and identify both content and users. Mobile search though has a distinctive nature which is different from traditional desktop-based searching: the success of digital publishing in the mobile environment depends not only on the design and presentation of the underlying content, but also on nature and effectiveness of the mobile search facilities. That is because, diverse forms of media and communication channels result in more dynamic environments, where there are many more circumstances of use and shifts in context, driven by links to the physical world and triggers within it. In these environments people tend to seek information relevant to their task or location, adding valuable personal context not often found on the desktop web (Fling, 2009). A key challenge for both desktop and mobile search is to identify and understand people’s needs in order to make information accessible whilst also ensuring it is relevant and useful. This is already evident in Google’s plan strategy of personalizing web search and providing return results that are filtered based on one’s history and preferences. This shift is clear also for the mobile information environment that in addition filters information by location, and potentially by user’s task, their environment, the device that they are using for accessing information, their personal interests, and their social interactions. This trend is in addition obvious in the way the Apple Store categorizes and promotes different types of applications. A common argument in favor of the development of mobile platform applications is that they provide precise and high quality of media content, the very moment the user requests this information. However, what the user would have to give up for this easiness and immediacy of use will be something that we are going to discuss also later on. An opposing - to Apple’s platform applications - paradigm stems from the development of the HTML5 browser. As the comScore report (2011) concludes, one of the most important trends has been the penetration of devices that have full web browsing capabilities. Nearly half (48 percent) of U.S. phone owners can browse the full web while 61 percent of EU5 phone owners have this capability. The use of the mobile device as an interface to interact with and search the cloud is also evident by the growth of the full HTML browser which was the only category of browsing technology to grow in 2010. However, the evolution of mobile web and its embrace by the mobile industry is often imbedded by
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technology fragmentation. For instance, there are more than 60 different browser versions being deployed across mobile devices from over a dozen vendors, making mobile technology increasingly complicated. Added to that, innovation is also impeded by leading device manufacturers and software developers who make use of patent rights to persecute their rivals by law. Recent examples point to the Apple empire which apart from the fact that seeks to patent any technological advance in the mobile field it also persecutes other manufacturers for patent infringements. For some, both events are resulting from the company’s effort to remain on the top of the mobile hardware and software hierarchy and lead innovation in the field.
T HE EVOLUTION OF THE DEVICE AND THE ROLE OF THE OPERATOR .
Mobile is an entirely unique ecosystem and, like the Internet, it is made up of many different parts that must work seamlessly together. According to Fling, we should think of the mobile ecosystem as a system with layers, where each layer is reliant on others to create seamless, end-to-end experience. These layers are nine consisting of: the operators, networks, aggregators, devices, platforms, operating systems, application frameworks, applications and services 12 . The base layer in the mobile ecosystem is the operator who’s role is to create and maintain a specific set of wireless services over a reliable cellular network. However, their role over the past decade has expanded doing much more that just managing the network trying in most cases to regulate and monopolizing their markets. One way for achieving that is by subsidize most mobile devices. This enables the operators to lock the devices to their networks as subsidization means that devices need to be provisioned to operators’ requirements. This process usually results in an increased number of devices released every year, with each device being slightly different from the other. The sheer number of devices is both a blessing and a curse to the mobile industry, according to Fling, as they give significance to the mobile market on the one hand but on the other, so many devices means adapting to all of their different requirements and a fragmentation in devices as different mobile devices display content inconsistently. As we will argue in the next section, the device is nowadays becoming a commodity and the role of operator is diminished since software companies are now leading the mobile field. However, before moving on to the next chapter we would like to provide a brief overview of the evolution of the device and the role of the operator as they have defined the future of the mobile ecosystem. Mobile technology has gone through many different evolutions to present date. In the industry, these evolutions are often referred as “generations” which indicate the maturity and capabilities of the actual cellular networks. In order to have
A more detailed overview is provided in Fling’s book (2009). For the purposes of this paper we will focus on the most prominent components of the mobile ecosystem.
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an overall picture of how these evolutions are shifting the way people use technology we have also to take under consideration the different eras in device development dating back to 1973. The very first mobile phones proved useful only to those who truly needed constant communication and where big in size, expensive and far too impractical for the majority of people. The network shifted to second-generation (2G) technology in Finland in 1991. The GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) network also included SMS (Short Message Service) capabilities. At the same time the size of the phone reduced significantly and more people started to want to acquire one. Late 1990s, the third era was brought about, inaugurating a variety of applications and services on the phone, such as listening to music, photographic cameras and the use of Internet. What distinguishes the next era in device development is the fact that most smartphones were equipped with an operating system, a larger screen size, a QWERTY keyboard or stylus input, and Wi-Fi or another form of high-speed wireless connectivity. The release of the iPhone in January 9, 2007, drove the fifth and last era in the evolution of mobile phones. In less than a year of its release, more than 2.000 mobile web applications were made freely available specifically for the iPhone and within just six months of the launch of the iPhone 3G and the ability to purchase and load applications on the iPhone, the iTunes App Store had already more than 10.000 applications downloaded over 300 million times. In the beginning of the industry, mobile equipment suppliers, mobile network operators and policy makers shaped the course of the industry. The drafting of the GSM protocol and the liberalization at the beginning of the 1990s were the enabling factors for a successful integration in Europe. The European Union formulated the minimum requirements for the liberalization of the once mostly monopolistic mobile communication markets, while it took 5 to 9 years to finalize the licensing of GSM operators. Traditionally the mobile industry was on an innovation path that led to ever better performing handsets and faster transmission speeds for data traffic. But the mobile landscape has changed in a short period of time due to the internet centric marketing strategies of leading manufacturing companies and the growth of a community of developers that were able to route around the operators. However, as we have already mentioned, operators are strongly interested in maintaining their dominant role in the mobile ecosystem. Operators are striving to expand their roles and this can been seen in their attempts to transform to vertically integrated companies that not only provide the infrastructure and data services but also the service platform. From the early beginning, DOCOMO, for example, introduced the proprietary i-mode platform which mimicked the Internet but did not provide access to the real Internet. But the ecosystem for service innovations that use mobile technology has become crowded ever since.
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Data services in its most basic form, the SMS, were part of the GSM specification right from the beginning and also hugely successful. In the second half of the 1990s when the Internet took off, slow transmission speed, low processor capacity and small screen size prevented similar development in the mobile arena. In that moment came the implementation of the i-mode platform in the Japanese market that used a markup language (CHTML) which was adapted to the technical capabilities of mobile phones. And it was successful, in 2005 it accounted for more than 50 million users worldwide and was available in 12 European countries. DOMOCO created a version of mobile Internet that would secure part of the service revenue for the provider. In the European context, the i-mode example was materialized by the introduction of the WAP/WML protocol and transplantations of the imode platform to Europe. Both attempts, however, were only mildly successful. This version of a mobile internet became obsolete as GPRS services were introduced and smartphones could access the Internet directly. In addition, the European mobile industry around the year 2000 was not yet capable of switching into service innovation mode, not willing to share revenues with third parties or to cooperate with other operators, which restricted their ability to finance service innovation because of highly segmented national markets and already focusing on UMTS which would reduce the viability of proprietary platforms (Leo, 2010). For all the aforementioned reasons, a replication of the i-mode system in Europe was not achieved. In the following section we will review the way that nowadays software drives innovation in the mobile ecosystem. Operators are also taking part in this process as we have mentioned already with the example of the WAC initiative, but also by starting to offer opendata plans in order to promote new roaming regulations. Offering lower costs helps to create a unified market for telecommunications services, a market that is needed to expand and flourish. Some have pointed out that there is an ongoing software revolution however, there is also evidence that the distribution of mobile products gives birth to a different proprietary environment that largely follows the logic of the i-mode system. This environment is being shaped in a large part by Apple corporation and the introduction of the App Store one year after the release of the first iPhone. The new digital world is trending away from the open and homogenous technologies of the Internet and toward a plethora of tailored, often closed devices connecting over proprietary networks and closed content distribution systems. Innovation in mobile is driven by hardware and software decisions that are in a large extent taken by industry leaders and telecoms. Will the mobile ecosystem leverage a proprietary paradigm or should innovation stem from collaborative efforts and initiatives that will strive for the prevalence of open
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systems and free software? Last month, Tim O’Reilly 13 , noticed how industries may impede innovations whose impact are far more important to our society. Often, when we look back on the history of media in our era, O’Reilly says, “we will see how, bit by bit, we gutted one of the engines of democracy in the interest of protecting and enlarging media industry profits. A very poor trade indeed”. What does it mean not to be in control of the devices we use to mediate ourselves? Are people ready to medicate themselves into bliss, thereby voluntarily sacrificing their rights for entertainment?
O’Reilly Radar blog http://radar.oreilly.com/2011/06/view-the-story-disastrous-impl.html (last accessed on 3/8/2011)
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4] MOBILE SERVICES
T HE SOFTWARE ERA .
According to Manovich (2008), during one decade the computer moved from being a culturally invisible technology, to being the new engine of culture. While Moore’s law has been the reason that electronic miniaturization has driven the development of computers and networks, Manovich asserts that even more crucial has been the release of software which formed the base of tools for social communication and sharing of media, information, and knowledge to non-technical users. According to his analysis, we live in a software culture – that is, a culture where the production, distribution, and reception of most content- and increasingly, experiences- is mediated by software. Software programs are perceived not only as the tools for social communication and sharing of media, information and knowledge but also, as tools for personal information management. Cultural software is not simply a new object which has been dropped into the space which we call “culture”. Software re-adjusts and re-shapes everything it is applied to – or at least it has a potential to do this. Software is increasingly influencing the mobile business model, as it constitutes the major force in the development of mobile services. Specific device features such as, camera resolution, and media players, are no longer key differentiators. The device creates differentiation in the form of new services. Differentiation do not either stem from the upgrading of infrastructures that network operators have to offer. This is a deviation from the existing model where supply chain efficiencies work best for simple devices with mass market production. Instead, for understanding how mobile software is being designed and developed in order to benefit users, and therefore long-term business, we need to review mobile not just as a medium, but also as a new business model entirely. This business is aiming in building a successful long-term market around the underserved needs of people. We need to look beyond a device’s hardware shell and review the complex composite of the ecosystem that includes software and service layers; platforms and developer tools. Attempting an overview of the existing mobile technology, we soon realize that there are many different directions for developers to take in order to create mobile software and by no means there is one technology or platform that can cover every aspiration both during development and the end product and user experience. Decisions about how to deliver a mobile application are complex as the mobile ecosystem is largely diverse and is comprised by many different layers, to start with, a wide selection of platforms which can be used to realize ones mobile vision. In the previous chapter we reviewed the evolution of the mobile device and networks run by different and competitive in many instances operators. In this section, we will continue our mobile ecosystem overview by focusing on the different
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platforms for software development and analyzing the different models concerning creation, distribution and the end services.
L EVERAGING THE W EB OR A NEW PROPRIETARY PARADIGM ?
Services are, according to Fling’s taxonomy, the last layer in the mobile ecosystem. They include tasks such as accessing the Internet, sending a text message, or being able to get location information – basically, services facilitate anything the user is trying to do with her mobile device. The mobile environment is however a complicated space to design and develop for all the different layers which all eventually rely to each other for accomplishing any simple task. In his book, Fling makes a estimation about the future of mobile and assumes that what we are going to see next in the mobile field is ‘ubiquity’. His ubiquity concept includes ubiquitous computing, ubiquitous network, and ubiquitous media: An age where the Web, together with mobile technology, can create a write-once-publish-everywhere environment. In this future scenario, portability is merged with pervasive always-on networks and the proliferation of web standards and services across media. However, as we will examine, we are still quite far from this scenario to be realized. Although in theory this would offer the ultimate mobile experience and would take
advantage of all the unique abilities the medium has to offer, there are significant factors in the mobile ecosystem that impede such an unfettered and unified vision. Over the past few years the orientation in the digital world has indeed made a swift from the wide-open Web paradigm to semiclosed platforms that use the Internet for transport but not the browser for display. Operator control and device fragmentation have of course played a significant role for taking this direction. In addition, the competitive nature of leading companies and their business strategies are not always in alignment with innovation, in its purest sense, when it comes to software development and afforded services. These interests also create the so called ‘walled gardens’ keeping innovation restricted and hidden within proprietary territories. These boundaries are hard to overcome and lead the evolution of the ecosystem in a more ‘closed’ direction than the open paradigm of the Internet. Nevertheless, the future of mobile is not straightforward and there are different dynamics influencing the evolution of the ecosystem. There is an opposing, to the closed platform paradigm, increasing belief that all applications and services will eventually move to the cloud and be open and free. In this line of thought, the Internet is perceived as not just a platform, but an operating system, that manages access by devices such as personal computers, phones and other personal electronics to cloud subsystems, ranging from computation, storage, and communication to location, identity, social graph, search and payment (O’ Reilly, in Anderson 2010). The Web has been a driver for open systems and the
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adoption of the ‘Web logic’, Web standards and Web business models on the mobile Internet is perceived as a catalyst for building open systems. From a mobile perspective, ‘open’ means that individuals will not be tied to a network or to a device and respectively content will be device, platform and OS independent. A well-known argument in favor of a more closed system is that it provides a better end-user experience. However, this argument tends to favor services where the customer is merely consuming content and not creating it as in the Web 2.0 world. We have already discussed that the use of the Web as a platform is a key component of the Web 2.0 paradigm and that creation and UGC, is stemming out of a human need for communication. As Jaokar and Gatti therefore conclude, participatory Web and human communication need interoperable systems and consequently open systems (2009). Undeniably, there is a need to enhance the standardization process to reflect changes that are leveraging the Web paradigm . Organizations like the Open Web Foundation and the W3C are addressing this question however this procedure takes a lot of time. Open standards have an impact on the mobile ecosystem simply because they harmonize the Web and the Mobile Web. In addition, this factor grows significant as mobile browsers and in particular HTML5 seem to dominate the mobile ecosystem. As much as important, standardization is a top-down process, and is complex and committee-driven. Open source initiatives on the other hand, are grassroots, simple and needs-based since they are often solutions to specific problems. The term ‘open source’ was created to distinguish from another term called ‘free software’, coined by the Free Software Foundation (FSF). Open source is perceived as an expression which is less ambiguous and more comfortable for the corporate world. The principal philosophical difference between the FSF and the open source movement lies in ‘what to do with derived works’, also called copyleft. The FSF believes that derived works should also be covered by the same terms as the license. The impact of open source on devices can best be illustrated by the example of Android. Android is a software ecosystem which combines a number of device software components which are released under open source licenses – for example, Linux, Webkit and others. The goals of releasing the Android software under open source are to reduce the overall development costs, encourage device manufacturers and network operators to adopt Android, and make it easy for developers to contribute to Android and to create and distribute applications. Nevertheless, Android is powered by Google who’s vision seems to be for open source driving front end interfaces, while back-end services are owned by Google and favors the company’s back end systems. The reoccurring question of this chapter will consequently deal with the question whether a single company has the potential and will put together a single, vertically-integrated platform sufficient compelling to developers and network
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operators, or whether we will instead see services from multiple providers horizontally integrated via open standards. To that end, some advocate the future in mobile development in the form of the iPhone. The iPhone in their view attempts to solve many of the problems facing the mobile ecosystem, from how people interact with their phones, to where we buy our phones, to what type of applications we will pay money for, to the level of technology standards we can support on constrained devices. What makes the iPhone special is how it attempts change on virtually all fronts, something no other device, or company for that matter, has been able to do previously (Fling, 2009). What is more, there is also the belief that eventually the industry leaders will close down market initiatives while endorsed by users who seem to prefer quality of service than openness. Within these discussions there is also another point often stressed and that is that what will ultimately distinguish players are their data subsystems. On the contrary, others believe that Mobile 2.0 tells us that mobile will be the primary context in which we will leverage the Web in the future (via open mobile).
S ERVICE ECONOMY : THE BROWSER VS . NATIVE APPS
With the growth potential in terms of subscribers almost depleted the mobile industry turned to developing the services offered through mobile infrastructure. Mobile data services were the next big step for the industry. The process of developing marketable mobile services only took off when powerful handsets became available, mobile network provided widespread high speed data services and App Stores reinvented a business model for data services. The latter offers a standardized environment for developing and marketing software. Indeed, in the last few years, the market for mobile communication services evolved from a niche product into a mass market product which has now diffused into many areas of everyday life (Leo, 2010). With the rise of the services economy, software is gradually evolving from a product to service. The secure and reliable combination of loosely-coupled distributed applications is increasingly important for service-oriented computing. Software as a service, sometimes referred to as “on-demand software”, is a software delivery model in which software and its associated data are hosted centrally (typically in the Cloud) and are accessed by users using a client device, using a web browser or an application over the Internet. This progressive shift in accessing the Web is moving the mobile ecosystem towards a complimentary market strategy blending the traditional Web access and new ways to acquire online content. Software has disrupted both the handset manufactures business and the network operators world. In the few past years, players with strong software ecosystems like Apple and Google have challenged the dominance of the ‘old guard’ in the leader-board of handset
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vendors, and operators established control points including service discovery, authentication and billing. It has become impossible to innovate outside software and the next step for operators and handset OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer), is arguably to become ‘platforms’ (enablers) for developer innovation. Mobile industry initiatives such as the WAC are attempting to drive the development towards web applications while EU funded initiatives like Webinos aim to use the web as a medium for deploying applications across mobile, PC, TV and automotive screens (Vision Mobile, 2011b). The platform race has been intensified yet there is no accurate metric of how mobile platforms are falling in or out o favor with developers.
THE EIGHT MOST PROMINENT PLATFORMS BEING USED BY DEVELOPERS(VISION MOBILE DEVELOPER ECONOMICS, 2011)
In the Developer Economics chart the Web platform is mentioned under the name “Mobile Web”. The researcher chose not to use that name as the term Mobile Web throughout this paper is referring to the user’s ability to access the Internet and the Web while being mobile. The Web platform is only one way to access the Web and is complimentary to the use of native apps. However as will see what differentiates these two ways of accessing the Web is the business model that they support.
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A PPS AND THE A PP S TORE .
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Throughout this chapter we are attempting to describe a fundamental change in the mobile data industry. Until recently, devices were simple (i.e. the feature phones) and capable of voice and SMS. Differentiation was achieved through price plans, device aesthetics etc. With the increasing proliferation of smartphones, devices are becoming more complex and sophisticated. However they are being increasingly commoditized and users expect good network coverage at all places (within reason). When it comes to upgrades, today’s customers no longer want to upgrade for network connectivity or more megapixels etc. They want differentiation that they are already familiar with and which they will use to enhance their mobile activities. This is translated to new, better services. For reviewing the service layer a close look at the different mediums as well as different types of platforms used and their distribution channels, is essential. For a definition of what is a mobile app, we would like to mention Mike Lee’s vision as it is well explanatory and inspiring 15 . In his point of view, apps reconfigure the hardware into something that is truly a personal experience. This represents a fundamental shift from ‘old-school applications’ running on a computer to the new software service ecosystem where App transform hardware to provide a complete experience. Apps are transformational not only to hardware, but also to the mobile business model. To a large extent, Apple’s success in this field is attributable to the community of developers who work on their platform. But Apple doesn’t have a monopoly on quality, nor on culture and great apps are not restricted in Apple’s walled garden. However till that instance, there are two different paradigms affecting the future of data-services that will be provided and they can be seen into the business strategies made by two market leaders, Apple and Google. Mobile services may be categorized over the type of application or mobile technology used to present content and information to the user. The most basic mobile application is an SMS application, which is most commonly used for mobile content, such as ringtones and images and for interaction with actual goods and services. Almost everybody who has a mobile phone is also texting for that reason SMS enjoys a global audience of all ages. This kind of application also plays an important role in emerging markets, where its use for payments is common. A second type is Mobile Websites that are aiming in design websites specifically for mobile devices. The browsing of web pages is supported by most phones, so in principle this is a technology to address to the widest audience after SMS text messaging. Although mobile websites are fairly easy to create, they suffer from technology fragmentation and they usually fail to display consistency across multiple mobile browsers. Some of the main drawbacks of web pages is that they are only available when the user is online and their
Mike Lee’s blog http://mur.mu.rs/?p=201 (last accessed on 27/7/2011)
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access to device features is limited. With the introduction of HTML5, offline browsing and new device APIs are becoming available offering better user experience and services more alike to native ones. Third, there is the category of the Mobile Web Widgets. They are small web applications that need to be executed on top of another environment and as there are several widget environments there is an increasing need of standardization. Platform or native applications on the other hand, can be created with the use of open-source or closed platforms. These applications are built specifically for devices that run the platform in question. The most important native platforms are, in alphabetical order, Android (OHA led by Google), bada (Samsung), BlackBerry (RIM), iOS (Apple), MeeGo (Linux based OS powered by Intel), Symbian (Nokia), webOS (Palm/Hewlett Packard) and Windows Mobile (Microsoft). Creating a native application includes deciding which devices to target and requires testing and certification, and a method to distribute the applications to users. The vast majority of native applications are certified, sold and distributed either through an operator or an App Store. The main benefits of programming apps natively in that they offer better integration with the platform’s features and often better performance. A major drawback is that they require a lot of effort in developing because of their complexity and it is difficult to support several native platforms (in contrast to the ‘one size fits all’ web paradigm). When it comes to the type of mobile applications there is often the recurring question ‘Why to create a mobile website instead of an application’? This for example concerns Web applications, like Facebook and Twitter, with wide use in desktop browsers and the
discussion of how to bring those same applications to mobile devices. The Web 2.0 paradigm brought several user-centered qualities to the desktop web, which are needed also in the mobile web space. Web has a number of advantages, websites can be browsed on almost all devices, the technology is flexible and it is easy to update sites so all users can have the latest version. Also, the mobile application can be developed faster, require less testing and does not require third-party certification and publishing in order to get on user’s devices. Apart from the technical advantages, is it also becoming obvious that users do not want just mobile web on their handsets but they desire access to the regular Web too. As far as app distribution and monetization is concerned, the arrival of the App Store –pioneered by Apple- has revolutionized software production. The App Store introduced a business model that afforded paid content and services in contrast to with the ‘free of charge’ internet culture. It also provides an appropriate, standardized environment for app makers to ‘easily’ develop and market their software. This has broadened development efforts for
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beyond the resources Apple could have devoted to this task. Back in 2005, Google noticed the growth potential of mobile applications and bought a small company (Android Inc) that was working on a mobile operating system. The unveiling of the Android distribution on November 5th, 2007 was announced with the founding of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), a consortium of 79 hardware, software, and telecom companies devoted to advancing open standards for mobile devices. Google released most of the Android code under the Apache License, a free software and open source license. Although, Android is an open source operating system Google controls the development process (defines the properties and functionalities of the system) and the App Store (the market). Furthermore, a challenge for the Android platform in 2011 will be building and maintaining platform and ecosystem coherence across multiple versions of the OS, software and multiple device factors (comScore Report, 2011). App Stores are used primarily by iOS and Android developers in contrast mobile web and Java ME developers distribute apps primarily through their own websites and portals, due to the lack of app stores with sufficient reach and discoverability. Reach is by far the most important reason behind developers’ preference for App Stores as a distribution channel. Operator portals whose ‘walled gardens’ once dominated content distribution, are paling in significance compared to App Stores. Today, App Stores are the primary market channel for 45% of mobile app developers across all the eight major platforms. Besides the main four native App Stores –Android Market, Apple App Store, Blackberry App Word and Nokia Ovi Store – there are hundreds of distribution channels to market 16 . As the two main App Stores are concerned, Apple’s App Store has a notoriously unpredictable quality control and
curation process during app submission, which causes some dissatisfaction across developers. Android on the other hand, places priority on developers with an automatic submission process with no curation, resulting of course in an increase in ‘nose’ from low-quality and even copyright-infringing or malicious applications in the Android Market (Vision Mobile Report, 2011a).
A REVIEW OF I OS AND A NDROID APPLICATIONS .
“For Google, the Web is the center of the universe. For Apple, your device is the center of the universe”. - Jason Hiner
There are over fifty different app stores, and many more if one includes the many operator portal globally. For a list of available App Stores visit http://www.wipconnector.com/appstores/ (last accessed on 27/7/2011).
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Whereas the application platform refers mostly to the technical approach of creating an application, the application content deals with the user expectations, needs and final experience. The Android Market may still fall behind the iPhone App Store in terms of variety and quality, however the Android operating system’s extremely tight integration with existing Google products, and the wide choice of devices and operators is a major differentiator that adds value to Android apps. Undeniably, the iPhone has best quality apps, but Android’s easy syncing with existing tools, interesting Android-only experiments coming every day from Google employees, and its open marketplace model have yielded some tools that may provide to the Android user a better experience and control over her device. In addition, Android is completely open-source meaning that apps can change functionality and appearance of the OS, if the user desires to. The two platforms differ significantly and they have several advantages and disadvantages depending each app category. Apple only recently bestowed multitasking to its development community, something that programmers have already been working with on Android. Also, iPhone does not support widgets — an extension of an app that appears on an Android phone's home screen. As far as music and social networking is concerned, widgets give Android a powerful advantage, on the contrary, the iPhone is thought to be not as a convenient platform for networking feeds as its rival. Nevertheless, the Android platform is falling short in different aspects and a main one considers the OS. Since it is freely available to anyone who builds hardware, network operators vend Android phones with a variety of screen sizes and processor speeds. This make game development in particular, one of the most successful app category, uneasy, especially when a new iPhone only comes out once a year, setting a new top-bar standard when it does. In addition, the Android market is disorganized and overwhelmed with a vast amount of free and non certified apps. This fact makes it difficult for developers to price their apps or to sustain a standard for the quality of what is offered. The differences concerning app development and offer on the App Stores are to a large extent reflecting the different strategies of the platform providers. Google’s strategy and approach to the cloud is looking to the future, and not the Internet as it is today. Google is expecting that in the not-too-distant future, Internet access will be low-cost and ubiquitous, including fiber connections in offices and homes and fast mobile broadband in virtually every corner of the planet. All of Google’s apps are connection-dependent and all of the data is stored on Google’s servers in the cloud. The user has to be online to take advantage of many of the best features, like simultaneous editing of Google Docs where they have access to their co-workers’ edits in real time. Google’s optimistic view about the future of broadband
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could not happen on its own solely based on free market forces. In order for Google’s vision to come to light, there will need to be more competition in the big markets and much stronger public-private partnerships in the smaller markets. Apple’s approach on the other hand, is not to use the cloud as the computer-in-thesky as it is not aiming in everything happening in the cloud. With iCloud, Apple uses the cloud to orchestrate data streams rather than control them. This is the cloud as a central repository for apps, music, media, documents, messages, photos, backups, settings, and more. Apple is doing something similar to what the popular startup Dropbox does. It is allowing users to sync their personal data and media purchases from their computers and mobile devices up to a personalized central repository. Then, that central repository on the Internet syncs all of the data and media files back down to all of the user’s devices, so that all of them have the same data. Users no longer have to worry about constantly managing their files and music libraries in order to keep them up-to-date across a bunch of different machines and devices - a computer, a tablet, and a smartphone, for example (Hiner, 2010).
C ATEGORIZATION OF MOBILE APPS BY CONTENT .
The table (page 42-45) provides an overview of the different types of apps provided by the two main App Stores. The researcher went through different app categories and noted the kind of content, function and features that where most prominent in each category. Examining the two columns of the table, that refer to the two main App Stores – the iPhone and Android – we may easily detect that the two Stores have a different approach to their users and different target groups. By reviewing quite a large amount of apps that are at the App Stores at the moment, the researcher encountered some interesting facts about their development process. Apps both in the iPhone App Store and Android Market are rated based on their innovative concept and efficiency in use. The Android Market though appears to address the device as a malleable canvas that may be transformed by the offered apps. Highly rated apps in the Android market are for example apps that enable the user to control better, customize their device and increase its performance: for instance control the Internet connection in order to prevent it from connecting over 3G/EDGE/GPRS and improve battery life and save money, to transfer apps from the internal memory to the SD card in order to save space and to manage the SD card in general, tether devices to the mobile phone connection, customize and/or improve all kind of different features of the mobile phone, and connecting the phone to other home or car devices. In contrast, the iPhone App Store, offers a more organized and optimized categorization of apps, approaches users as distinctive target groups and offers apps that are
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tailored around the needs of those groups, invest more in the design and style but falls short in the experimental force that drive the Android market. For example, Apple App Store’s biggest and most successful category is the game category and they offer the best apps and user experience in that domain. Also, iPhone apps offers a great variety of business apps and entertainment. The wide selection of those apps cannot be compared to what the Android Market has to offer, at least so far.
A general trend in both App Stores is that they do not market location awareness as a distinctive type of app category nor as a unique feature of the device. In accordance to the observation of de Waal and de Lange (page 10), location detections seems to serve as a complementary feature that adds value to the services offered to users but in many cases the app may run both with the location detection enabled or disabled. Apps that make use of GPS technology are found across different categories like for example in the ‘reference’, ‘entertainment’, ‘gaming’, ‘lifestyle’, ‘navigation’ & ‘transport’, ‘social networking’, ‘travel’ and in the Android ‘widget’ category. Another interesting aspect is that social networking apps are not getting a lot of the developers attention. The main web platforms as Facebook, Twitter and Myspace are the ones that are prevailing also as in their mobile app version. For Myspace for instance, Android app reviews compare the app version to the web version stating that the app provides a much more satisfying user experience. Apart from those two prominent networks the only mobile social networking app that has gain popularity and is
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well know is Foursquare. Another kind of app that is gaining attention is IM which enables real time chatting and sharing of photos and videos with the people that someone contacts regularly. The fact that developers do not invest their time on new social networking apps may stem from the fact that an app of this kind would only bring revenue in a long-term basis only after the social network would have grown enough. TABLE SHOWING DIFFERENT APP CATEGORIES BASED ON THEIR CONTENT. iPhone App Store Android Market
Books, Comics: books, novels and comics in Books, Comics: app to transform the phone the fingertips, reviews of books while on the to a Kindle e-reader, download books and go Reference: acquire knowledge comic books and Reference: acquire references for objects reference material for hiking,
information from many different sources around,
apps, ancestry, thesaurus, restaurants in camping, dictionary proximity, Wikipedia on the go, white pages mobile for business search Business (for daily business routine): Business: access to office files, credit card
Checking account balance, unit converter, payments finding hotel room, logins/account manager and backup, conduct meetings on the go, manage and send files Education: language learning, world Education: learn geography, driving lessons,
factbook (maps, information about every IQ challenges, language learning country in the world), dictionary and thesaurus, playing a music organ, astronomy etc. Entertainment: just for laughs apps & Entertainment: movies, TV celebrity information, search game rates,
exploration of physical space, browse TV program, shows, movies, download music, miscellaneous fun apps
Finance: account tracker, stock market Finance: account checking, tax information,
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family stock market, personal expense tracking
budget sync, meter reading (saving money on (outgoing-ingoing), manage relative web gas, water, electricity bills, Gaming accounts (such as Pay Pal) on the move Games & Fitness: circle, track and and predict monitor
Health & Fitness: body fat calculator, Health calories, compass for hiking, eye chart to test women’s vision, physical fitness
pregnancy, database for health information and diseases, maintain or build fitness, weight regulation, relax and fall asleep apps
Lifestyle: saving money apps, recipes for Lifestyle: apps to impress, food and drink, food and drinks, restaurants in close cars, coupons , what is around me’ apps results based on proximity),
proximity, birthday calendar, home screen (return
wallpapers, product search and barcode horoscope, clearing stored call log, search scanner and browser etc. history,
Medical: keeping track of pregnancy, news Medical: on the spot reference material for information about the medical field and emergency and critical care, drug reference drugs, body anatomy Music: music search and recognition, turn Music & Audio: music players, music search your phone to a synthesizer, record music, and discovery (even by recognizing user’s live radio stations singing), control music / audio across multiple networked media devices Navigation: the phone as your guide apps, Transport: speed camera detector,
finding local businesses, GPS meets cycling, community GPS navigation, scavenger hunt, competition and networking, camera public transport information, car rental
detection, compete and discover your town, share GPS points of interest and tracks, navigation apps News: general and focused news from sports News & Magazines: RSS readers / manager, to weather, getting direct feeds from favorite website news aggregations, daily papers, read news sources, read it later app it later app
Photography: organize, store and modify Photography: crop, rotate, adjust color and
pictures and movies
add effects QR code readers, scan
Productivity: learn to be more productive in Productivity:
daily routines apps, access and share files documents, create .pdf, organization tools, from multiple devices, organize thoughts, calendars, increase switch between apps notes, research, voice recorder, manage speed and overall performance and response, important dates, calendar, office on the go, Internet security scanner Social networking: keep in touch with Social friends and your social network apps, instant sharing networking: location instant messaging, push tools,
messaging, sharing, guide to local shopping, notifications,
dining and entertainment, reviews and rate combining all networking services in a your experiences, send your coordinates to unified interface, compete with others by anyone that might need them earning points for discovering your own town follow seasons, grand prix,
Sports: following your favorite team or just Sports: keeping up to date with current events
tournaments updates of flight information,
Travel: book hotel accommodation, currency Travel:
converter, keep track of where you, your restaurant review in your area, discovering friends and family are, translator, city guide new areas, tour guides and personalized trip tours, travel organizer, locate wi-fi planning
connections Utilities: type while walking app, battery Communication: new browsers, way to check, customize desktop, browsers 17 , turn tether devices, interpretations-translations your phone to a remote control/mouse Weather Weather Personalization: customize the look of the phone Media & Video: create, watch and share videos, organize files, pictures and videos, cloud-based access to the user’s own music
Developers were not able to use anything other than the default Safari rendering engine as their iPhone apps backbone. Lately Apple had been approving a lot of apps that were previously rejected and some of those apps include browsers.
library, photo sharing, live radio Shopping: shopping list apps, online retail shops, barcode scanners Tools: graphing calculators, browse Amazon AppStore and have the ability to ‘test drive’ an app before purchasing it, app/task manager, backup, voice search Widgets: keep track of data usage, add-ons for the home-screen, local search
Source: Black Dog Media Limited (BDM), UK, 2011.
5] CONCLUDING REMARKS
T HE NEXT BIG THING .
One of the premises of this thesis is that new technologies are not adopted because they are new, but because they make new uses possible, and new services that are unavailable or more difficult otherwise. Currently Western countries can be seen as forerunners in mobile technologies, yet, they are still struggling to develop sophisticated mobile services that could fit in people’s everyday lives. The adoption of a given technology is influenced by the possibilities and limitations associated with it. As Castells notes, one of the factors that affects mobile penetration is the type of service provided to people and concluding that adoption has been higher where industry operators have offered consumers appropriate applications (Castells et al., 2007). In the mobile discourse, innovation is a reoccurring term describing developments that look into the unexplored possibilities of the technology and eventually have great influence on the future of the existing services. In technology related journals innovation is commonly identified with finding ‘the next killer application’. This phrase is usually describing the quest for competitive and “addictive” 18 applications that will engage the users in an everyday interaction making the specific service an indispensable aspect of the user’s life. When examined more carefully, this approach is criticized for being tailored around investment-funded industry. As Fling observes, being unable to create long-term sustainable business model on its own, mobile innovation relies on selling the “next big thing” to investors instead of selling to people what they really want (Fling, 2009: 29). Josef Hochgerner (2011) provides a definition of what can be described as innovation. In his line of thought, digital innovation is the introduction of a new idea, product or method exploiting the cultural, technical and commercial possibilities of digital technology. It goes beyond the invention of new ideas to their successful implementation, and most commonly refers to the commercial development and introduction of products and services. It may refer to new products or processes based on advanced technology or new combinations of technical components successfully employed in existing new markets. Most importantly, digital innovations can affirm, support, and accelerate existing social conditions and trends, or can oppose these developments and change the “normal” course of events. This latter case is what Christensen calls “disruptive innovation”, a term that is nowadays used to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect; typically by lowering the price or designing for a different set of consumers.
The adjective used is often loaded with shameful connotations. However the reason it is used in this specific context is to stress the acquisition of new communicative habits.
In the mobile field, this notion of disruptive innovation is of particular importance since it provides explanations and gives insights in the constant changes that this flied of business has been underway and also make predictions of what is yet to come. As we have already described one of the biggest changes in the mobile field is that the role of the operators and the handset manufactures is being progressively demised. The claim that we have made is that now software companies are taking over and are leading innovation in the field. For that account, Christensen predicts that disruptive technology’s next casualty will be the software industry and warns Apple against ‘getting too fancy’ with its products. Attempting to interpret this prediction, we are tempted to ask the following question: are mobile apps just a hype or do they actually have the possibility to be meaningfully integrated in our lives? In our point of view, the next big thing in the mobile industry will be brought out of the creation of interdisciplinary and multicultural communities dedicated not only to the potential of an idea but also to the potential of an idea to be realized. To achieve their goals, they will bring together people from many different fields that are interested in the evolution of the mobile and not only in the monetization of certain application and services. The nurturing of a mobile culture within these communities will work with the potentials of the technology and will plan a sustainable integration of the services.
FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE .
The book ‘Net Locality’ written by Gordon and de Souza et Silva, is one of the most recent books in new media theory that focuses on the use of the mobile phone and location awareness technology. It puts into historical perspective this new phenomenon that the authors call ‘net locality’ and foresees that gradually there will be no purpose in differentiating between different devices, since all will become interfaces that connect us to the web, people and things around us. They assess that “as objects in the world (including people, places, and things) are integrated into the web, any distinction between the world and its information will fall away”. In their book they advocate the emergence of “a ubiquity of networked information – a cultural approach to the web of information as intimately aligned with the perceptual realities of everyday life”. Is it, however, safe to put forth that “we no longer need to enter the web as it is all around us”? Or such an assertion will only result to the mystification of the existing ways people have access to mobile media and content? In certain instances, for example, in their book, their theoretical approach to the mobile ecosystem and development is not in direct relevance to the actual services that are being implemented for the creation, access and distribution of content. This is evident when they asses that, “it is no longer constructive to distinguish between the Web and the Internet as it is all about the Web” (2011: 7-9). The Web
however, has not become transcendent of its hardware and software and the web of content has not pervade our communication landscape. Such a claim seems to ignore proprietary strategies that as we have described do not need the ubiquity of the Internet and neglect the Web 2.0 paradigm. Through our journey in the mobile ecosystem and by reviewing its driving forces, we have pointed out in several instances that the ‘Web way’ and 2.0 qualities are not a straightforward idea to be implemented in the mobile filed without any negotiations or struggles. In an attempt to demystify the mobile ecosystem, social theory has examined the role of the mobile device in mediated interactions and has given us insights into how communication technologies are able to transform social ties. However, although the mobile has started as an interpersonal communication channel it has nowadays expanded to many things beyond being a communication medium. All these different roles that the mobile device comes to incorporate are yet not fully understood as the mobile ecosystem is still a field of experimentation with wide variances as to how it is being used and how it is able to perform. In addition, despite the global reach of the Web, mobile access to web content still maintains its local specificity and similar technological infrastructures are socially appropriated in different ways. Theoretical assumptions about causality and specificity of the medium may provide a basis for evaluation and analysis but they are not forming a consistent discourse as to how we can integrate this technology in the most beneficial way in our lives. In particular, mobile applications and services are not yet widely adopted and consequently not fully adapted to fit people’s own practices. What we can or cannot do with mobile software is still to be defined so we can assume that the specificity of the technology is still underway. As Schaefer points out, technology shapes ways of being, but the process and social context of creation already affects the cultural role technology will be playing and its use in society (Schaefer, 2010:89). Since the majority of media consumers are drawn by an implicit participation and network ties seem in many cases to remain weak, we have to consider the developing process and initiatives that attempt to strengthen networking patterns and participation on the basis of shared interests and causes. The way software companies perceive users and users’ expectations is important in defining the openness or closeness of mobile usage. It also leads the way to a successful long-term market around the underserved needs of people. It is not clear yet whether human practices will be categorized under different app categories, like the App Store has to offer, or they will be related to specific user needs. To what extent the context of use will be limited in different user-case scenarios being offered to specifically identified target groups, still remains an open question.
People have appropriated certain expectations and practices into their everyday lives. They expect the ability to locate and communicate with their social network in an instant, they expect the ability to query anything and retrieve an immediate, personalized answer, they expect the ability to record and archive thoughts and images (Gordon, 2010:3). Communication technologies produce new information about the world and have the facility to organize that information through the literal or metaphorical storage capacity of databases or archives (Gordon, 2010:3). While people are entrusting their thoughts and records to corporate servers and services companies are giving users the perception of control. It’s not that users are being deceived but they perceive the conveniences as outweighting potential threats. This trend is exemplified by the successful penetration and adoption of Apple’s applications that tend to favor services where the customer is merely consuming content and not creating it as in the Web 2.0 world. Apple’s claim, for example, is that the closed platform for developing and distributing content, offers a better end-user experience. Gradually, more and more consumers seem to share Apple’s claim believing that this is the only way to better services. In the mobile software industry, as well as, in the developers’ community, the phrase that ‘one size does not fit all’, signifies the difference and distinction between open and closed platforms and applications. Whereas for web apps, developers can write code that will apply to all devices, in the later case, developers have to compromise with the fact that their application will not be suitable for all platforms and devices but will only be accessed by those who have specific mobile devices, operated by specific systems that support the platforms that the application is designed for. Although designing for example for the iOS platform will assure a wide reach to mobile content consumers, it is true that all other user groups will be excluded and will not have access to this application and its content at all. An important aspect to determine the future of mobile software development, is to hang on to the idea that ‘one size should fit all’ and how this idea could be implemented. There is a difference between technological innovation and social innovation. It is possible that technological innovation will not lead to social innovation or that it could even impede it. Since new applications would not be able to reach all users and would not allow users to do more than retrieve specific information, does that mean that access to content and the Web 2.0 qualities are at stake? Do the decisions and that users make eventually matter? Is the infrastructure reshaped based on human agency? In this sense, it is made obvious that participatory culture cannot be considered to its human agency alone but also needs to encompass development processes and software routines, as well as how they perceive and engage with users. What we are able to assess is that mobile opens up unfamiliar situations
and uncertainties that may be evaluated only in the long run. Although an overall evaluation on the long-term mobile impact may take some time, the attempt to make connections within theory and practice and identify the forces that interfere and define the path for mobile innovation, is what requires immediate attention.
SUSTAINABLE AND ‘ OPEN ’ DEVELOPMENT .
Throughout this paper the issue of an open-horizontal versus a closed-vertical evolution of the ecosystem has been reoccurring. The claim that the new digital world is trending away from open and homogenous technologies toward a plethora of tailored, often closed devices connecting over proprietary networks and closed content distribution systems is one that needs to be addressed. It is yet to be determined whether the mobile ecosystem will leverage a proprietary paradigm or innovation should be initiated by collaborative efforts that will strive for the prevalence of open systems and open source software. Some have pointed out that there is an ongoing software revolution, however, there is evidence that the distribution of mobile products gives birth only to a different proprietary environment. For measuring the openness in mobile innovation it is also important to examine the way that users are able to discover and access content as it seems to have the power to differentiate in a great extent the architecture of the system. The notion of the Web 3.0 in mobile inaugurates a business model swift which makes a move from the discovery and distribution model of the 2.0 paradigm into new walled gardens controlled by the few. This is opposing to the claim for openness and freedom of use. Active participation is not manifested simply because we have the tools to participate and nor does it guarantee that those tools will be used for the empowerment of the user. An argument in favor of the Android platform is that it offers more choices to the users and control over the devices they use. Even though Google’s Android platform claim is that it is open, the fact remains that Android is powered by Google and the back-end services as well as all data acquired are owned by one company. The open source claim is mainly building a reputation for benevolence and good intentions even if the entire development process happens behind closed doors. What is more, Google announced in March 2011, that they will not be providing public source code access to the latest version of Android, code-named Honeycomb. If the statement that, the future leaders in mobile will be the ones that will possess the more data is true, then companies that are building those databases and are experienced in data manipulation, are the ones that most likely will lead innovation in the field. An allegation against Google mobile strategy is that it has been aiming in subsidize Android so as to deliver low-cost handsets and wireless Internet access in order to drive more attention to Google’s
advertisement inventory and to continue building on the collection of a huge database of people’s traces. On the contrary, open innovation refers to the ways companies can benefit from distributed knowledge, external ideas and external routes to market. This informs the idea that most successful innovation happens not as a linear process but in environments which encourage the circulation of ideas and approaches. For the mobile, in particular, ‘open’ means that individuals will not be tied to a network or to a device and respectively content will be device, platform and OS independent. Open innovation was impeded in the past by network operators who tried to regulate and monopolize their markets and it may again be impeded by technology fragmentation and by the excessive use of patent infringement allegations of one company to another. Provided that the very foundations of mobile software licensing are based upon ownership of copyrights and patents, and the huge amounts of money that licensing software generates, cross-industry litigation is likely to be the norm for the foreseeable future (Laffan, 2011).
BUILDING A COMMUNITY OF APP MAKERS .
Could an open innovation strategy be manifested based on new media and communication theory and criticisms, as well as, by leveraging social implications? Could, for example FoursQuare be something more than a navigational app? Could it be a locationbased social network that will transform our perception of space and our connections as well as interactions? Or should we focus more on the way data are being shaped and structured and the types of hierarchies that are being formed? The creation of a community sharing the shame ideals about mobile could be the ideological and cultural hub to inspire and educate everyone that is interested in the future of mobile. Developers are the foremost mobile innovators and are nowadays a rapidly expanding community that includes software engineers (architects, implementers, discoverers, thinkers, inventors) within small, medium and large enterprises, hobbyists or indie developers (working on open source or proprietary software), high school kids aspiring to go to MIT, commissioned developers, brands developing apps, investors funding mobile development and hundreds of start-ups. Great apps come from great artists who tend to be part of a great community, says Mike Lee. In his vision, he tends to refer to ‘App Makers’, rather than developers, or designers, because in his point of view, it takes more than development and design to create a great app. There are several examples to support this point of view. Apart from Mobile Monday (MoMo) that was a volunteer-based, city oriented, planned meeting of mobilistas, there are
also other, more hands-on, examples. Enviu 19 , for instance, is an OMG community that aims to address certain challenges, such as, to create an open source smartphone, a mobile phone created by the people and for the people, to deal with mobile phone e-waste, and to introduce everyday new applications for mobile convenience, for example, create apps for sustainability to our daily life. To address all these issues, Enviu organizes a call for creative mobile applications that has recently resulted in almost 100 great concepts to change the mobile phone industry. In the city of Amsterdam, there is a new force in app development being born. It is called Appsterdam 20 and it aspires to become the center of gravity for all app makers that want to make a difference with their work. According to the founder, Mike Lee, Appsterdam is not a company or a person or a service, Appsterdam is an idea, which has blossomed into a movement. It is a movement of artisanship in software, a movement of apps, hand-crafted not with the intention of making a successful exit, but of making a quality product. Could these initiatives contribute to a more open and horizontal app development? Could we make the mobile world better? How could we achieve that if such initiatives are depended on operator’s funding (in the case of the Enviu this is obvious by Vodaphone’s involvement) and when they build apps for certain platforms, like Apple’s mobile operating system? What other technologies can we add to our phones today to make a better world tomorrow? The claim of the researcher is that social innovation could only stem from a freespirited community of app makers sharing open source ideals. As a development methodology open source is a collaborative software development methodology. Is a mechanism for sharing both risks and costs of collaborative software development. Open governance goes hand-in-hand with open source, as it is about ensuring that developers and users have equal freedoms not to just use, but also to modify and build on the software they use.
Enviu website http://ourmobilegeneration.org/ (last accessed on 3/8/2011) 20 Appsterdam website http://appsterdam.rs/articles (last accessed on 3/8/2011) 58
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