Research Articles

The System and Self-Reference of The App Economy: the Case of Angry Birds



This article presents a preliminary analysis of the app system, mainly in relation to mobile technology. By observing the app system (application system), it sets out to describe and understand its social evolution. Employing Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory to examine the popular app game Angry Birds, this study describes the internal structure of the app system, which, in theory, acts as a social sub-system, displaying the following themes and features – fi rst, app software and the broader social system interact and rely heavily on each other, so that, within the existing capitalist market, such interdependence clearly enables the social system-based app sub-system to establish the app platform, the app structure and, even more importantly, the simplifi ed inner principle of apps’ ‘use and download’ function. Second, credited to the mobile terminal, these set principles within the capital market are able to construct a system boundary and inner structure of their own. Third, the software (app) library and quantity of downloads become the common theme (shared concept) used to project the activities of the system. This (re)formulates and simplifi es the complexity of the original system environment to create the self-refl exive app system. Finally, such refl exivity allows the app system to self-generate and maintain itself. Although its functions may have been wellintegrated within the social system, the app system represents a closed type of self-contained/self-production mechanism.

Keywords: systems theory, Niklas Luhmann, double contingencies, autopoiesis, app

How to Cite: Cheng, C. (2017) “The System and Self-Reference of The App Economy: the Case of Angry Birds”, Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture. 9(1). doi: