Digital Traces in Context| Unraveling the App Store: Toward an Interpretative Perspective on Tracing

Tilo Grenz, Heiko Kirschner


Big data and its potential, use, and hopes seem to grow more valuable for commercial and research purposes alike. Nevertheless, problems start to arise as soon as the technical and epistemic potential of big data is overemphasized. Big data, like any other traces of human behavior, must be contextualized. This seems even more important since all types of digital traces are molded by specific operations and procedures as well as methods inscribed into digital infrastructures. These infrastructures are the necessary precondition for the emergence of digital traces, yet they pose a challenge for research because they are by no means static, but rather moving continuously. By reconstructing the trajectory of the UDID (unique device identifier) and its contested role within Apple’s App Store ecology, this article presents an empirical perspective on how the contexts and preconditions of tracing capabilities are the result of continuous negotiation processes. The method presented in the article bridges the debates on the moving architectures of digital media and the search for suitable process-driven approaches.


digital traces, big data, interpretative research, trajectories, App Store ecology

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