Our CHI 2020 paper, “My Library Has Just Been Obliterated”: Producing New Norms of Use Via Software Update, has been accepted and has received the Honourable Mention Award (top 5%). Thanks to my co-author Maria Eriksson for her amazing contribution. In the paper we analysed a recent /unfortunate/ update by Spotify, and frame it against a broader trend where software functionalities are purposefully modified via incremental updates in the interest of establishing control on behalf of platform owners.
Software updates are commonly perceived as tools for fixing flaws and improving functionality. In this paper, we problematise this view by showing how software updates may also be used by vendors to create new norms of use that control user behaviour and reduce their agency. We explore the nature and aftermath of a controversial software update that was released by Spotify in June 2019. By analysing almost 3,500 reactions to this update, we show how it removed and modified several features in ways that severely affected users’ capability to organise, navigate, and maintain their music libraries, while it pushed modes of listening that delegate song selection to Spotify. Elaborating upon our results, we discuss how updates may be used as political tools that privilege certain forms of behaviour while restricting others. We also portray updates as sites where ongoing struggles and negotiations regarding user agency and digital ownership take place.