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.

AUGUST 2011
 

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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ABSTRACT
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.

KEY WORDS
Mobile phone, mobile communication, mobile ecosystem, mobile applications, Web 2.0, Web 3.0, open innovation.

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INTRODUCTION
“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.
                                                                 
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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
                                                                 
2

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.
                                                                 
3

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,
                                                                 
4

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).

                                                                 
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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

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