Subproject 3

Germany

Smartphone-Communities:
Participation as Promise and Imposition

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

Anne Ganzert
Theresa Gielnik
Philip Hauser
Julia Ihls

Summary

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.