me, kdg
Kim de Groot is a design researcher with an MA in new media. She is part of the lectoraat Communication in a digital age and teaches new media at the Willem de Kooning academy Kim's research deals with the inverted relation between image and reality. Moving from representation to the performative, from the visual to the infrastructural, images are no longer created to represent a reality but to manage it. Kim examines images as informational objects and traces the relations between image, event and media.

YOUR LIFE IN AN APP SHELL by KdG

KdG


design utrecht manifest by Metahaven

The overload of thumbnails on the iPhone's interface is not images, it is all applications (apps). Apple claims there is "Apps for Everything"; Apps for Working Out, Apps for Around the House, Apps for Going Out, Apps for Managing Money, Apps for Cooks, Apps for Keeping Current, Apps for the Great Outdoors, Apps for Music, Apps for Students, Apps for Mom and Dads, Apps for Work, Apps for Fun and Games, Apps for Traveling. For now this is where the 'Apps for Everything' range ends although I guess that within a month another segment of life will be ‘apped’ and interfaced.

Rapidly our social, leisure and work activities are ‘apped’ into the iPhone and other smart phones. This central role of the app makes our social life manageable, editable and exchangeable. It will make your life more efficient. Your work out results might help you decide what to cook and enlighten the uninspiring daily grocery shopping. You don’t need to make a list at home since your App for Cooks instantly produces a few recommendations when typing in ‘broccoli’ on your iPhone. Investing more time figuring out the App for Mom and Dads could have saved you from a tantrum at the grocery store: never mention 'broccoli' near a 4-year old…
Your life will also be more routined because of these apps. A routine with many ‘new’ management tasks though since the app raises the level of social engagement, not just with other people but also with digital objects. Think about the digital book. It should not just be read but also recommended and linked to other books. You can decide to integrate the book into one of your blogs as an image or add it to Citeulike or another book app to personalize the ‘book experience’.[*01] I find these options fascinating because it does not only imply a reordering of reading but also gives an insight into the level of social production instigated by apps. What does the app mean for the way we organize and live our lives and the way we connect to other people?

Many people are exchanging tips and tricks about the iPhone’s apps. It brings people together. Yet, this kind of real-time communication between people happens outside the iPhone, online, except for chat and email apps. The relation between you and others is more paradoxical inside the app's environment. There are apps for everyone but they are all focused on you, the singular user who is performing against the backdrop of togetherness and sharing: You and other Students, You and other Mom and Dads. The advice at the grocery store is based on a collection of feedback from other mom and dads. Through this app you’re not in touch with parents but with their feedback that is constantly being updated by Parents Primer, a community of psychologists. It might be very helpful but are you truly connected to another parent? I would call it the mimicking of collectivity.
The relation between you and others, you and the crowd is designed into every application. A crowd is present and packaged in the Nike training club as well as in Home sizer and the Mom and Dads’ Parenting Preschoolers app. It is the collection of your skills, goals and results that matter to other app users. Connections are made a-synchronically and on the basis of app performances. The relations of the singular user and the crowd within the app are more about collecting others than connecting to others. Other people are part of your filtering mechanism.
The app-based smart phone seems to diminish direct contact with people for a particular and temporary purpose. The app is where collectivity is being managed, organized and kept together by editors, a fast connection and user friendly interfaces. Think about Twitter for example, an application that supports quick messaging between friends through an online platform. Publishing a message through Twitter is to send one message to multiple recipients. The Twitter platform replaces the individual act of forwarding and multiplication, the message gets multiplied by the application. It transforms important social properties of the older cell phones’ texting mechanism; interdependence and trust. The app-based network thus implies a different formation and use of a crowd.

Shell exchange
The usefulness and instrumentality of the app can be limiting. Like every tool it is a means to an end. In that sense, the app can be a closed shell and exclude useless information and possibly instigate echo chamber effects. At the same time, it is exactly its high level of utility that makes the app as social tool very interesting.
With the app you filter out what you find important in life. But the app is a special filter, it is a way of living, a lifestyle. Showing others how you cook, where you travel and even where you are while simultaneously notifying people what you're thinking. The app is thus also a public filter, it not only tells you how to organize your life but it also shows others how you do it.
Inherent to the rise of the application is the transformation of many social processes turning into data. All of your iPhone app activities are archived as data in the cash of your phone. What is revolutionary about the transformation of life into data is that our (social) lives become readable, editable, measurable and trackeable. Clearly, this makes the app an interesting commercial medium because it makes user preferences readable. But besides preferences I’m guessing there is more interesting processes to be read. What? Hybrid and yet undefined social relations and activities. How? Apps allow for an easy and fast exchange of data between them and therefore for its content to be mashed up.[*02] What is the result of mixing up different app functionalities? What I’m interested in is the customization of the app as social management system by iPhone users. It might result into app life solutions that are so exciting and new that it convinces Apple to make an app out of it. I’m waiting for the moment iPhone introduces the Shopping Language for Mom and Dads App to figure out which applications were involved in its hybrid breeding.

Kim de Groot.

Notes
01. citeulike is a free service for managing and discovering scholarly references, http://www.citeulike.org/
02. Mashup (web application hybrid) In web development, a mashup is a web page or application that combines data or functionality from two or more external sources to create a new service. The term mashup implies easy, fast integration, frequently using open APIs and data sources to produce results that were not the original reason for producing the raw source data. Definition from Wikipedia.