API practices and paradigms: Exploring the protocological parameters of APIs as key facilitators of sociotechnical forms of exchange

  • Eric Snodgrass Department of Design+Change, Linnaeus University, Sweden
  • Winnie Soon Department of Digital Design and Information Studies, Aarhus University, Denmark https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0790-4737
Keywords: API, protocol, web query, interface, exchange

Abstract

The use of application programming interfaces (APIs) to develop and design technological forms of structured exchanges is an increasingly prevalent practice at present, allowing data to be shared, automated, circulated and redistributed in wider computational culture. Despite acting as key infrastructural elements and connectors, the prominence and importance of APIs is still under recognised. Via a brief survey of the history of API development and then closer regulatory and technical analysis of the long standing, non-profit net.art generator (nag) (1997), this study aims to bring to the fore key sociotechnical elements of API design. Particular attention is given to protocological forms of control as these can be enacted through APIs via the regulations, terms of service and specific operational processes and affordances of fetching networked data. net.art generator uses the Google API and URL and specific attention is given to Google’s setting of terms for exchange. In doing so, we give a few suggestions for how anyone working with APIs might think through certain key questions around the creation and use of APIs, particularly in regards to the parameters of openness, accessibility and terms of inclusivity that APIs set upon practices of knowing, sharing, participation and exchange.

Author Biographies

Eric Snodgrass, Department of Design+Change, Linnaeus University, Sweden
Eric Snodgrass is a senior lecturer at the Department of Design+Change, Linnaeus University, Sweden. His research looks into the intersections of computation, culture, politics, and technology, with a current focus on computational infrastructures and politically-oriented forms of intervention. His recent work includes the co-edited volume Executing Practices (Data Browser 06) and a PhD dissertation, Executions: Power and Expression in Networked and Computational Media.
Winnie Soon, Department of Digital Design and Information Studies, Aarhus University, Denmark

Winnie Soon (HK/DK) is an artist-researcher, examining the cultural implications of technologies in which computational processes and infrastructure underwrite our experiences, which are ever more programmed. Her works explore themes/concepts around computational culture, specifically concerning internet censorship, data circulation, real-time processing/liveness and the culture of code practice.

Winnie’s projects have been exhibited and presented internationally at museums, festivals, universities and conferences across Europe, Asia and America. Her current research focuses on aesthetic coding in the realm of software studies, working on two books titled Aesthetic Programming: A Handbook of Software Studies (with Geoff Cox) and Fix My Code (with Cornelia Sollfrank). She is Assistant Professor at Aarhus University.

Published
2019-02-01
How to Cite
Snodgrass, E., & Soon, W. (2019). API practices and paradigms: Exploring the protocological parameters of APIs as key facilitators of sociotechnical forms of exchange. First Monday, 24(2). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v24i2.9553