(Edited By) Paul D. Miller, Svitlana Matviyenko – The Imaginary App


The MIT Press, ISBN: 9780262027489, English, 320 pages, 2014, USA

How much has the concept of the cloud-based ‘app’ socially and economically changed our daily lives, and how much critical thinking has been produced about that? Surprisingly, The Imaginary App is among the first books about the economy and the aesthetics of the app paradigm. Apps are often marketed as a “panacea” for problems (“there’s an app for that”, which is a “phantasmatic promise”, as Kluitenberg points out), they are actively downloaded in their billions from the cloud onto our intimate devices. Our hardware manufacturers exert total control, recording every single act we perform with and through our device. Doesn’t this sound like the perfect surveillance nightmare, sugarcoated by speed, efficiency and design interfaces? The first part of this book is dedicated to control and power distribution, including also a discussion of invisible filtering policies (described by Pold and Andersen). The second part focuses on the app as “virtual prosthetics”, exploring the question of “what a body can do” as Srnicek puts it. The third part explores the app economy and both the myth of making a fortune and the use of “stalking” tactics to obtain payments. Finally the fourth part of the book is about the app’s software nature and its role. There’s an appendix of “fake apps” concepts (maybe still a bit raw) from the book’s homonymous exhibition. Perhaps a gallery of successful scam apps (promising something technically impossible to do, but nevertheless bought by thousands of people) would have also been appropriate.


The Imaginary App