Mobile persuasive apps: a proceduralist investigation
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Mobile devices are said to be the future’s primary platform of persuasion as they are very pervasive and extremely widespread. Because a specifically tailored methodology to study the workings and normative characteristics of mobile apps is currently not available, this thesis explores the proceduralist reading as an option. It stems from procedural rhetoric: the art of expression through computational processes, and is used to derive or construct messages for videogames. The proceduralist reading provides a way to investigate the subject’s processes and derive what ideas these express. After a comparative exploration between videogames and mobile apps, and a case study on the app Moves, I will conclude that the method is a valuable approach for mobile apps, although some differences should be taken into account. Where videogames engage the player in simulations that refer to real-life situations, persuasive apps render representations of personal processes based on tracked data of the user. Both can cause dissonance gaps: differences between ideas in the user’s mind and those represented, which encourage reflection. Where games often involve a player-character relationship to motivate the player to achieve goals, the user commonly forms the sole subject of mobile persuasive applications. However, some persuasive apps may link avatars to the tracked data that transform according to the behavior of the user. Additionally, although apps don’t generate constraint-based simulations like games, procedural constraints play an important role in emphasizing certain aspects of life through a process of selection, translation and representation. Thematic considerations can be used to formally address the evaluation that is expressed by such translation processes. Finally, normative characteristics can be derived from apps in a similar way as from videogames, and attempts can be made to combine these and form meaning derivations: comprehensive messages that can imply ideological framing.