The earliest usage the OED records for the noun ‘app’ is from 1985, referring to a new development from a computer company called Apple.
In 2013, apps are an essential part of our digital lives. Apps do some pretty amazing things and they are increasingly being used by universities and educational bodies to engage the public with aspects of the Arts and Humanities. Look, for example, at apps produced by the British Library or apps by Touchpress which include The Wasteland app, Pyramids 3D and The Orchestra.
While websites have become relatively well spread among the academic community, apps remain something of an unknown quantity. There are plenty of lists of what apps graduate students should be using, but few apps created by graduate students (and certainly by Arts and Humanities students). They seem to require whole other coding languages, they could be costly to produce, and even if you do succeed in creating one, getting it into app stores and markets is a process shrouded in mystery.
However, the process is opening up. Yapp aims to democratise the creation of mobile apps so that ‘anyone – even if they lack technology or design skills or resources and time – can create a mobile app’. Their first venture, Yapp Events, can be used for events such as weddings and parties, but it does have features which make it suitable for events in the academic world, or even for teaching.
The process is almost unnervingly simple. There are, at the time of writing, a limited number of preset themes and a set number of page templates suitable for sharing photos, twitter streams, schedules, text and contact details. Once your data has been entered you publish the app and share the link or QR code with your audience and they can download and run it through Yapp Box (in itself an app available in the major app stores). There are limitations, but even in this form Yapp could enhance public engagement. As app-making products develop, apps for individual research could become as common as WordPress blogs and Twitter streams – but as the big corporate apps currently demonstrate, smart phones may provide a way to reach a non-specialist audience.
To showcase Yapp, The C21 Scholar is producing digital delegate packs for our events. You can download the app for ‘Transforming Postgraduate Research’ now by clicking on this link or by scanning the QR code below.