The walkthrough method

We are asked to think on the following:

– What is the walkthrough method?

– What is the methodology of the walkthrough method?

– How would you carry out the walkthrough method?

 

We were introduced to the paper The walkthrough method: An approach to the study of apps by Ben Light, Jean Burgess and Stefanie Duguay [1].

 

The study of Apps and their sociocultural and economic effects is proposed and a formal methodology is described in this paper.

 

The environment of expected use and technical walkthrough are part of what is termed the Critical Technocultural Discourse Analysis (CTDA)  and includes forensically examining firstly, the environment of expected use.  This includes identifying the app’s vision, its operating model and its governance. The walkthrough process is to build a foundational corpus of data, starting with examining the app’s intended purpose, its cultural embedded meanings and to step through all the processes involved in registering the user to the app (if required). Further to this, the technical walkthrough would incorporate a data gathering procedure, not only registration but also everyday use of the app and how a user would go about leaving the app, closing an account if it has been opened and so on.

The walkthrough method uses interpretive techniques; Science and Technology Studies (STS) and cultural studies as a lens for app analysis. The walkthrough method as we use it is grounded in the principles of Actor-Network Theory (ANT), as a specific aspect of STS.

Within ANT, there are Intermediaries and Mediators – which in turn can be human or non-human. The intermediaries pass on meaning unchanged through a network of relations, while the mediators may transform meaning. An example in an app might take some information and suggest related things.. the example given in the paper was a dating app, having gathered certain like/dislikes – may suggest further likes to the user’s profile.

The way the app presents itself, its menu structure (in more playful apps this may frequently change) – the size of buttons, graphics, physical interaction gestures (e.g. swipe in Tinder), these all go towards a transformative action by the non-human mediator to affect change in the user.

What happens when the app is running (when removed from the user’s screen – or even, when machine is switched off)?

What happens when a user subverts the app by using it for a ‘non-intended’ use?

Consideration of affordances – again, is the app presenting itself to bias the user in their reactions?

What extra features/ changes occur over extended periods of use, not apparent in the initial walkthrough?

I am not clear on how best I would go about using the walkthrough method.

  1. The paper seems very anglo-centric, is it limited in its use? For example, how would this work in Japanese culture?
  2. Theory is presented well but the practice of the methods described need fleshing out

 

 

 

[1] The walkthrough method: An approach to the study of apps sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/1461444816675438