[Cartoon by Dave Walker.]
In the last couple of posts I’ve been thinking about what the form of texts add to their meaning, springboarding from a book reviewing experiment in The Believer in which the reviewer was given a novel to read which had been stripped of its cover and all meta-data about the author.
I’ve also suggested that what we see in a fundamentalist reading of Scripture is not the ‘word speaking for itself,’ as evangelicals might like to think, but ‘the word gagged’ – it is not allowed to speak, unless it says something that might challenge our unquestioning belief.
So what of the iPad?
When we look at a book what the cover and design does is aid our ability to see ourselves in it. The glossy cover acts as a mirror, so that we can see ourselves when we look at it, and see ourselves as the sort of person who would like to buy it.
With a product like the iPad, this mirroring effect has been deliberately maximised. Jobs and Apple have carefully cultivated a sense of anticipation so that our desire for the product is hyped up, and now it is finally released, the whole emphasis of the promotion is a polishing of the mirror – helping us to see ourselves in the product.
So what does the desire for this product say about what kind of person we wish to see?
Thin Fast Robust
Sensual Simple, yet sophisticated
Enjoyable Intelligent Desirable
Tough, yet soft edged Well Connected
These are the sorts of words that come to the fore. This is the mirror that Apple polishes.
But what of the product behind the mirror? When the reviewer had to read the stripped back novel, they were forced to actually engage with the text in a much more careful way. What is this saying? became the core question, not How is this making me feel?
I wonder, if it were possible to strip away the black polo-neck, to take away the hype and glitz and the Apple mystique and to simply use an iPad with no idea who had made it – what would we make of it then? It’s only then that we would properly be able to ask What does this do? rather than How is this making me feel?
Perhaps then we could think beyond the consumer idiocy of ‘want one, but don’t need one,’ and may be send those few hundred dollars to Haiti instead. In the mean time, ht to The Onion for another great send-up: