Multi-Situated App Studies
Methods and Propositions

by Michael Dieter, Carolin Gerlitz, Anne Helmond, Nathaniel Tkacz, Fernando N. van der Vlist, and Esther Weltevrede

In: Social Media + Society. doi: 10.1177/2056305119846486.


This article discusses methodological approaches to app studies, focusing on their embeddedness and situatedness within multiple infrastructural settings. Our approach involves close attention to the multivalent affordances of apps as software packages, particularly their capacity to enter into diverse groupings and relations depending on different infrastructural situations. The changing situations they evoke and participate in, accordingly, make apps visible and accountable in a variety of unique ways. Therefore, engaging with and even staging these situations allows for political-economic, social, and cultural dynamics associated with apps and their infrastructures to be investigated through a style of research we describe as multi-situated app studies. This article offers an overview of four different entry points of enquiry that are exemplary of this multi-situated approach, focusing on app stores, app interfaces, app packages, and app connections. We conclude with nine propositions that develop out of these studies as prompts for further research.

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Figure 2. Comparative information visualization of the user registration process in dating apps (Tinder, Grindr, OkCupid, Christian Mingle, Badoo).

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