In the Footsteps of Smartphone-Users : Traces of a Deferred Community in Ingress and Pokémon Go
2017-12-20, Ganzert, Anne, Gielnik, Theresa, Hauser, Philip, Ihls, Julia, Otto, Isabell
In this article, the authors carry out conceptual and theoretical reflections on smartphone communities by closely investigating two apps: Ingress (Niantic 2012) and Pokemon Go (Niantic 2016). While the games’ narratives fabricate reasons for the players to move, it is the Smartphone - understood as an open object between technological and cultural processes - that visualizes and tracks players’ movements and that situates and reshapes the devices, the users and their surroundings. A central aspect is that the ‘augmented’ cities that become visible in the apps are based on the traces of others: other processes and technologies, as well as other players. These traces of practices and movements structure the users’ experience and shape spaces. Traces are necessarily subsequent and we therefore develop the concept of a deferred (smartphone) community and analyse its visibility within the apps. By close reading the two case studies, we examine potential “smartphone communities” in their temporal dimensions, as well as their demands and promises of participation. In order to gain a perspective that is neither adverse to new media nor celebratory of assumed participatory community phenomena, the article aims to interrogate the examples regarding their potential for individuation/ dividuation and community building/dissolution. In doing so, the games’ conditions and the impositions placed on the players are central and include notions of consent and dissent. Drawing upon approaches from community philosophy and media theory, we concentrate on the visible aspects smartphone-interfaces. The traces left by the various processes that were at work become momentarily actualized on the display, where they manifest not as a fixed community, but as a sense of communality.