Together with my colleague (and friend) Patrick Vonderau I am currently working with a book project devoted to Apple’s iPhone. The fortcoming book, Moving Data. The iPhone and My Media will be published by Columbia University Press early next year.
Less than two years after its release in 2007, the iPhone has become a significant symbol of change in media engagement worldwide. Integrating communication and location services with motion pictures, sound, music, text – and millions of software applications – Apple’s smartphone is fulfilling its promise as an all-expandable mobile media machine. As the world’s fastest growing innovation platform, with over 50 million customers worldwide and more than 10.5 million apps downloaded daily, this handheld invites one to constantly consume, produce and share binary code. The iPhone offers to connect and transmit, to talk and watch, to play and listen, to choose and buy, to search and organize, to measure and store – and by doing so, translating all these practices into media experiences.
Welding together urban cultures, social media and mobile connectivity, the iPhone attracts users with embodied experiences of movement through the everyday. Yet what do the dynamic personalization of media and their constant movement of data imply? At a time of rapid technological change, this is a question pervading industry boardrooms, university classrooms and popular culture alike. Our book will contain a mix of critical and conceptual papers exploring the iPhone as a techno-cultural prototype, a platform of media creativity, and a lifestyle gadget. Moving Data thus will contribute to salient debates in media and cultural studies by providing a survey of existing and fresh research. The idea is to confront prevalent claims of newness and usability with systematical and theoretically informed arguments. In addition, we will attempt to analyze the relationship between digital information accessible via the iPhone and the protocols governing its access and use. For instance, how does the design of participatory media relate to technological features and routines of sharing – such as the global availability of high-speed WiFi? To what extent are haptic pleasures of a gesture-based interface, and a 3.5-inch display with touch controls, challenging conventional notions of media usage and experience? Moreover, how are ideas about user-led innovation, collaborative mapping or creative empowerment to be understood and reconciled, if at all, with techniques of mobile surveillance, personal rights and prescriptive social software? What about the economy of the app store and the perceived ‘crisis of choice’ in the digital era? And finally, in what ways might studying the iPhone contribute to the analysis of digital media, the history or philosophy of media technology, or to a theoretical understanding of media as data?