|Research|

CREATION, MANAGEMENT AND CONSERVATION OF AN « APP COLLECTION » IN ZKM  • ASSESSMENT

The « app phenomenon » is an incredible success story. The development of smartphones and the applications designed for them has redefined the future of mobility. Smart devices and applications have now advanced to the status of media, and it is very difficult to imagine everyday life without them any more.
Current estimations say that there are around 1,725,000 apps circulating in the world of smartphones and tablets. The explosive growth in apps is structured by many categories, such as « games », « news », or « sport ». But although the mobile applications have become the symbol of a global, collective creativity, and although many developments excel in interactivity and intermediality, for which art paved the way, no category of « art » exists on the various app-platforms.

Background and goal

To generate and direct attention to artistic productions in the app format, which is entirely appropriate considering their dynamics and distribution, the ZKM | KARLSRUHE, the CYBERFORUM, and their partners organized the first international AppArtAward. With this award, the three partners want to establish apps as a new form of art. 

As a result of the AppArtAward, the ZKM is exhibiting Apps as, almost permanent, exhibition in the museum. The goal of the assessment is to evaluate if creating an App collection within the ZKM|Sammlung is feasible, regarding management and conservation.

After meeting Julia Jochem, 3 aspects were discussed:

  • On one hand, the Apps should remain available on-line (not local) to keep the media ecosystem in which they evolve.

  • On the other hand, it will be preferred if the Apps are shown in their first version (1.0), or as they were released for the AppArtAward, in the frame of AppArtAward’s exhibitions.

  • And finally, all the proposals have to respect the German law.

State of the art

The actual challenge in the creation, the management and the conservation of an App Collection is the software/hardware interdependence. The iOS Apps are related to 3 layers of interdependence:

  • Development layer

  • Distribution layer

  • Playback layer

The development environment is proprietary. Indeed, to develop iOS apps, the user need:

  1. A Mac computer running the latest OS

  2. Xcode, the Apple’s integrated development environment (IDE), including a source code editor and a graphic user interface editor.

  3. iOS SDK, Xcode extends including the tools, compilers and frameworks needed specifically for iOS development.

The distribution environment is also proprietary since these Apps are only available on Apple App Store (iPad/iPhone/iPod) or iTunes (iMac) which necessary implies to own the related and compatible hardware (all from Apple features).

Creation of the collection

The versions currently available on the Apple App Store are the latest versions with new features.
In order to have the Apps in their version 1.0 (or as they were submitted to the AppArtAward) the ZKM needs the artists/developers to provide it. Then the apps will be stored as backup on iCloud or iTunes (on a dedicated computer).

The Apps are currently stored on a dedicated iPad 2. If it is not already done, a backup should be done on iTunes or iCloud.
Once the Apps gathered, we can create our own in-house « App Store » as a « storage » place for the older version (which are no longer available on Apple App Store); the « ZKM App Store » where the Apps would be centralized and implementable on several iPads via OTA (over-the-air).
For this we are not having much possibility (because we are evolving in a very proprietary environment). We can distribute in-house Apps with iOS Developer Enterprise Program, or work with appaloosa, which runs on any platform.

Management and conservation proposals

Once the « archive » is created, it is all about how to exhibit it and preserve it in a fast-moving environment. We have two solutions:

 

Solution 1: versioning strategy
We can ask the artists/developers to create an updated version of the App compatible with the latest version of iOS without any discernable change or at least acceptable (color resolution or bug) or any new feature, just an iOS compatibility update.
If the artists/developers don’t want to take care of the update, the ZKM could ask for a commented source code to recompile it for the latest iOS. This requires an extended developing environment with skilled developers and the needful environment to develop the App (see above in section state of the art).
Note: if a newer version of the App has been released with new features and the artists/developers don’t want (naturally) to release a version without the new features to match our request, we will need to create this « ZKM App Store » where this updated version will be shown only in the frame of exhibition.

 

Solution 2: « frozen-time » strategy
With this solution we keep the entire software and hardware environment as it was originally. It means, for example, that the App « OscilloScoop » from Scott Snibbe, created for the AppArtAward 2011, will continue to run on an iPad 2 with iOS 3.2 and more.
For this we need to buy spare iPads (preventive conservation), to download and store the firmware (internal software of the device called iOS), and to implement the App in order to duplicate the whole « original » system (iPad+iOS+App version 1.0).
To implement the App, we can use our « ZKM App Store » or we can use the Archival iPad to do a restore procedure.
(I made sure that the Apps would remain in their version 1.0: The restore process will always attempt to reinstall whatever version of the app was originally installed on your device, even if a newer version is available. When restoring from iTunes, you’ll simply get whatever version is stored in your iTunes library.)

After some research I discovered, without surprise, that the Apple devices have a ECID/SHSH system preventing any downgrading attempt.
The only solution is to jailbreak the iPads. Keeping in mind that the proposal I make must respect the German law, I made some research about this and it seems that there is a gap/room for interpretation in the law:
The 2001 European Copyright Directive implemented the treaty in Europe, requiring member states of the European Union to implement legal protections for technological protection measures. The Copyright Directive includes exceptions to allow breaking those measures for non-copyright-infringing purposes, such as jailbreaking to run alternative software.

http://www.app-art-award.org/