Claudiu SILVESTRU, Austria | June 8, 2018 | 10 am

Apps and the Downside of availability

Apps have brought the availability of software to a whole new level. They are easy to get omnipresent companions on handheld devices of everyday life. Some apps have very intuitive interfaces. They meet expectations of all types of users: occasional gamers, information junkies, social media enthusiasts, professionals of different fields etc. And most important: a lot of the apps available on the stores of Google, Apple and co are for free.

(© Claudiu Silvestru)

At the same time apps have brought the production of software to a whole new level – a new bottom, if one looks at the offer on the app stores as a whole.
The developments in software production in general have led to complex workflows with software development kits which combine pre-defined algorithms with code fragments and scripting. This is a trend which has its share of influence on the inflation of apps which we experience nowadays. online kits for app development go from trivial “bucket-software” only to be filled with user owned static content to complex tools which provide customizable elements to be expanded by user generated code and content. As for most software products, high quality apps require special skills in programming and graphic design in addition to the expertise in the field which should be addressed by the app. In contrast to most software, apps are expected to be for free or low cost and to have no advertising. This narrows down the possibility of high budget projects and interdisciplinary teams. The result are products which fill the app stores and miss either a sparkling idea, an appealing design or an appropriate functioning.

This context has a very strong impact on apps of the cultural heritage sector, many of which are the result of low budget initiatives of museums or cultural heritage sites or the by-product of research projects. Rather than to provide meaningful content in an appealing way, such interpretation apps are used as an advertising tool to show that an institution is up to date and into the new media hype. Furthermore, the offer of apps which address cultural heritage professionals is even narrower.

The session “The Employment of Mobile Applications for Survey, Documentation and Information” at the Visual Heritage 2018 invites participants to have a discussion on the role of apps in terms of development, usage and shifts in the image of cultural heritage determined by an uncontrolled inflation of strongly available software.

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