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The materialities and embodiments of mundane software: exploring how apps come to matter in everyday life

Marianne Clark (Vitalities Lab, Centre for Social Research in Health, Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW, Sydney, Australia)
Deborah Lupton (Vitalities Lab, Centre for Social Research in Health, Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW, Sydney, Australia)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 8 July 2022

84

Abstract

Purpose

In this article, the authors aim to explore mobile apps as both mundane and extraordinary digital media artefacts, designed and promoted to improve or solve problems in people's lives. Drawing on their “App Stories” project, the authors elaborate on how the efficiencies and affordances credited to technologies emerge and are performed through the specific embodied practices that constitute human–app relationships.

Design/methodology/approach

The project involved short written accounts in an online survey from 200 Australian adults about apps. Analysis was conducted from a sociomaterial perspective, surfacing the emotional and embodied responses to and engagements with the apps; the relational connections described between people and their apps or with other people or objects; and what the apps enabled or motivated people to do.

Findings

Findings point to three salient concerns about apps: (1) the need for efficiency; (2) the importance and complexity of human relationships and maintaining these connections; and (3) the complex relationships people have with their bodies. These concerns are expressed through themes that reflect how everyday efficiencies are produced through human–app entanglements; apps as relational agents; apps' ability to know and understand users; and future app imaginaries.

Originality/value

This project explores the affective and embodied dimensions of app use and thinks through the tensions between the extraordinary and mundane dimensions of contemporary techno-social landscapes, reflecting on how apps “matter” in everyday life. Our analysis surfaces the active role of the body and bodily performances in the production of app efficiencies and underlines the ways mobile apps are always situated in relation to other media and materialities.

Keywords

Citation

Clark, M. and Lupton, D. (2022), "The materialities and embodiments of mundane software: exploring how apps come to matter in everyday life", Online Information Review, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/OIR-12-2020-0565

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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