Pushed to the edge : how push notifications and their notificatory flows impact daily life and culture

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Wright, Andrew Fischer

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Mobile phone push notifications are simultaneously one of the most prevalent media forms and one of the least critically considered. This thesis argues for a deeper look at the push notification with a critical eye for what sociocultural impacts and influences this form can have by grounding it within a cultural historiography of opaque computing and notificatory machines. By performing autoethnographic methods on my iPhone and the notifications that I receive, I introduce new valences for the push notification that extend beyond the screen of the phone. I examine three flavors of particularly prevalent notifications that have the ability to transform the ‘user’ into a ‘user hyphenate,’ whether this be through disrupting a user-player’s daily life with an in-game message, playing with a candidate’s identity to encourage campaign contributions for the user-voter, or changing the way that the user-inhabitant sees the neighborhood around them through messages sent by geolocalized social network platforms Nextdoor and Ring Neighbors. This thesis introduces a series of methods for closely reading individual notifications, chronologically grounding collections of notifications reading their ‘notificatory flows,’ and considering the narratives they tell us about the places around us through their ‘notifictions.’ Most importantly, this thesis calls for more critical consideration of a notificatory future.


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