Mobile Interface Methods: Towards an App Analytics

Workshop of the Collaborative Research Center „Media of Cooperation“ and the Research Training Group „Locating Media“

10-11 November 2016, University of Siegen, Artur-Woll-Haus, AE-B 107

Digital and mobile media not only participate in social and cultural life, but also take on lively, productive, and performative qualities when they become part of digital and social research practices and methodologies. Other researchers have therefore argued that digital devices and methodological apparatuses should instead be understood as inscription devices with agential capacities of their own (Ruppert et al.) or as embodying bias and putting forward ‘interested readings’ of reality (Rieder), whilst at the same time speaking to different methodological traditions. Instead of viewing this as merely problematic, a variety of methodological approaches, including ‘interface methods’ (Marres and Gerlitz), attempt to embrace these insights and work with or make productive the bias digital media introduce to research methods and the confluences of methodological traditions they invite. Interface methods set out to align methods to problems and in doing so consider both objects and methods to be situated and relational.

The central aim of this workshop is to explore the specific challenges that mobile and dynamic digital media environments pose to interface methods. Mobile media devices and applications tend to draw on specific software infrastructures, are informed by situated practices and location-based operations, and increasingly rely on sensor data – typically obtained from the direct physical environment of the mobile user. How can research methods respond to the various inscriptions, whilst at the same time remaining mobile and on the move themselves? How are analytical capacities distributed in researching mobile media? The workshop especially focuses on the interface between digital research and ethnographic methods; their capacity to attend to mobile media as situated, enacted within software infrastructures and through specific user practices. It will bring together presentations and hands-on data exploration drawing on a participatory mobile sensor research framework called ‘PartS’ in order to outline the contours of mobile interface methods.


Interfacing Methods and Technology

14:00 – 14:45 h
Mobile Interface Methods
Carolin Gerlitz

14:45 – 15:45 h
Studying App Ecologies
Anne Helmond, Fernando van der Vlist

– Coffee Break –

16:00 – 17:00 h
Technical Fieldwork between Software Studies and Digital Methods
Bernhard Rieder

17:00 – 18:00 h
Technography: On the Performativity of Technical Research Tools
Cornelius Schubert


Mobile Interface Methods in the Wild

10:00 – 11:15 h
Autonomous Driving in the Wild
Eric Laurier

– Coffee Break –

11:30 – 12:15 h
How to Study Occasion Maps of Wayfinding Journeys
Tristan Thielmann

12:15 – 13:00 h
How to Study Drone Practices?
Hendrik Bender

– Lunch –

PartS Wokshop Session
Each section contains a 25-30 min talk plus discussion

14:30 – 18:00 h
Introduction and current on PartS & OpenDash
Thomas Ludgwig, Julian Dax

Using PartS for app analysis
Ferndando van der Vlist, Carolin Gerlitz

– Coffee Break –

Using PartS for drone analysis
Hendrik Bender

Using PartS for mapping mobility
Johanna Meurer

Background Literature

Laurier, Eric et al. (2017): „The Social Life of Autonomous Cars: Video Analysis of Tesla and Google Cars on the Road.“ Submitted for Review for CHI.

Lury, Celia, and Nina Wakeford: „Introduction: A perpetual inventory.“ Inventive Methods; The Happening of the Social. Eds. Celia Lury and Nina Wakeford. London/New York: Routledge, 2012. 1-24.

Marres, Noortje, and Carolin Gerlitz: „Interface Methods: Renegotiating Relations Between Digital Social Research, STS and Sociology.” The Sociological Review1 (2016): 21–46. Print. Available from:

Rammert, Werner, and Cornelius Schubert, eds. Technografie: Zur Mikrosoziologie der Technik. Frankfurt/New York: Campus Verlag, 2009.

Rieder, Bernhard. “Scrutinizing an Algorithmic Technique: The Bayes Classifier as Interested Reading of Reality.” Information, Communication & Society (2016): 1–18. Print. Available from: