Android and the political economy of the mobile Internet: A renewal of open source critique

  • Kimberley Spreeuwenberg Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam
  • Thomas Poell Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam
Keywords: open‐source, Android, Google, software studies, political economy, critique

Abstract

This paper examines how and why Google in developing Android, the popular mobile operating system, has strategically adopted particular open source practices, but ignored others. It explores how through these practices, the corporation has been able to cultivate and control a vast mobile Internet ecology. This ecology involves large telcos and equipment manufacturers, as well as a mass of third party application developers and hundreds of millions of mobile Internet users. It allows Google to use and build on the contributions of independent programmers. More importantly, it facilitates the harvesting of valuable metadata of Android users, crucial for the development of new location–specific services and advertising. This paper shows how these corporate strategies, which combine intricate technical, legal, and political–economic maneuvering, shape the rapidly growing mobile Internet, and, consequently, have far–reaching economic and cultural consequences.

Author Biographies

Kimberley Spreeuwenberg, Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam
Kimberley Spreeuwenberg (MA., University of Amsterdam) is a new media researcher and graphic designer. She lectures at the Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam.
Thomas Poell, Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam
Thomas Poell (Ph.D., Utrecht University) is assistant professor of New Media and Digital Culture at the Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam.
Published
2012-06-22
How to Cite
Spreeuwenberg, K., & Poell, T. (2012). Android and the political economy of the mobile Internet: A renewal of open source critique. First Monday, 17(7). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v17i7.4050