Invasive Species of the App Ecosystem: Exploring the Political Economy of Mobile Communication
The mobile market is frequently described as an ecosystem where powerful companies generate value from continuously harvesting and distributing data. In this article, we advance the ecological metaphor through both theoretical conceptualizations and empirical explorations of the contemporary app ecosystem. We thereby contribute to the emergent field of app studies by critically scrutinizing the political economy of mobile communication. The article identifies the prime infrastructural resources that ground app-based communication (devices, operating systems, app stores, apps, third-party services, and data accesses) and their ownership structures to discuss how power is obtained, exercised, and amplified in the app ecosystem. To illustrate the value of the theoretical approach, we provide a critical asset analysis of Google LLC (Alphabet, Inc.) and discuss its position as an invasive species in the app ecosystem.