Subproject 3

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Isabell Otto (University of Konstanz)

Postdoc: Anne Ganzert
Student assistant: Maren Kraemer, Kristina Jevtic
Associated: Philip Hauser



Relations of Participation, which are facilitated by smartphones, are constituted by a dynamic interplay between resistant practices and resistant power structures. The subproject examines these dynamics with the concept of resistance, in order to elucidate the manifold operations of defiance or immunization. The guiding research question focuses on the temporalization of participation in smartphone communities. The subproject studies media participation within dynamics of resistance through its processuality and temporary stabilizations. The definition of the smartphone message (mit-teilung) as the connecting-separating relation of participation under the conditions of mobile and digitally connected media is the foundation for the subproject’s case studies and theoretic systematizations of participation processes. The dynamics of resistance are questioned for their capability of opening and closing playing fields of participation. The facilitation of peripheries, niches and subcultures of smartphone communities as well as the immunization strategies of power centres are described in the subproject as gestures of (re-)structuring or (re-)formation and thus as dynamic relations of participation, that are constantly occurring in the mutual influence of temporary positioning and the dissolving of positions.

The subproject’s three remits address particular situations, in which the resistances of participation processes become more tangible and thus observable: The first area of research “Fabricating. Pop-Cultural attributions in television series and their fan cultures” examines narratives of (the critique of) smartphone communities and therefore addresses the temporalization of participation relations as temporary stabilizations, serializations and shifts in meaning. The research field “Formating. Playing with the smartphone as an open object” secondly takes practices, such as tinkering or hardware-hacking, through which the device acquires new functionalities into focus, as well as the simultaneous efforts of closing the device for economic interests. “Positioning. Politics of crisis in smartphone communities” thirdly considers the facilitation of smartphone communities in contemporary circumstances and precarious constellations. The aim is to comparatively examine the dynamics of resistance and immunity through these situated and detailed analyses and to then be able to grasp processes of participation more thoroughly and formulate media theoretic concretizations and systematization. To do so, the subproject pursues the case studies and with them the elaboration of concepts and termini, with which different facets of temporalization become explorable: repetition, anticipation, deferral, retrospectivity, postponement, serialization and temporary stabilization. All case studies address the question, how resistances can be momentarily facilitated or overthrown through the operations, iterations and practices of the smartphone.


The smartphone enables participation in mobile and digitally connected communities. The device does not only work as a mobile communication device, which allows coordination of ad hoc gatherings and thus can serve as an instrument of political and social participation. In fact community building and dissemination increasingly not only occur by a being-together in the same place but in mediated relations between different times and spaces, mobile users and devices. In the context of the research group “Media and Participation: Between Demand and Entitlement” this sub-project therefore analyses, how community emerges from medial exchange processes. With the main premise ‘smartphone-community’ we ask about community formation, which is enabled or obstructed by the processes of the smartphone, like the exchange of messages, images or geodata.

The sub-project adds to the framework of the research group by applying media participation, as “Sharing” (Nancy) which simultaneously connects and disconnects human and technical entities, to the smartphone operations. The device is analyzed as a netlike and open object of participation, which claims its users as much as it gets claimed by them. Participation in and the emerging of smartphone-communities are described as a processes shaped by promises and entitlements. This, continually unfinished, smartphone-community, which only exists in media operations, is the horizon, to which user practices align, but that also always has to still be reached and only exists as a figuration placed in the future or even as an utopian fiction of society. But community building and dissolution becomes temporarily visible and describable through status-posts, sharing locations, image galleries or contact lists. The project research, with its praxeological and discourse analytical methods, thus aims 1.) at the development of a differentiated media-cultural scientific model of analysis; 2.) at the studying of dynamics in community building in the interplay of the smartphone’s technological condition, discursive assignments and user practices; and 3.) at the description of interfacing processes between users and devices in different places and with different temporal peculiarities, that are involved in communication building.

By strictly staying with the smartphone’s “Sharing” (Nancy) the project’s methods conduce the systematic indexation of the media conditions of mobile communities and regards its research as fundamental in media studies for further socio-political and cultural comparing studies regarding participation and mobile media.

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