The Apple event was today, and it was every bit the spectacle of consumerism the world has come to expect. As soon as I could I fired up YouTube to watch Dieter Bohn’s Hands On video with the new iPhone(s). Then I watched Tech Insider’s 12 minute recap of the whole event.
I’m not an Apple fanboy. I use an iPhone you can’t even buy anymore, and the only other Apple product I use was a gift. But I’m drawn to the spectacle of what Apple makes and how it talks about those things. As a culture, we have a badly disordered relationship with technology, I’m certain, and we don’t think nearly enough or carefully enough about how our phones and computers are made and at whose expense. Neither are we mindful enough about the economic model undergirding the industry. We need to listen well to writers like Franklin Foer and Shoshana Zuboff, who are pointing out clearly and compellingly what Apple and co. are doing to the marketplace, to the planet, and to us.
And yet, I wonder if there isn’t a corollary risk of failing to be impressed enough at the artifacts Apple parades on stage once a year. The aesthetics these products embody and their functionality were simply unimaginable even a decade ago. If you showed them to the most technologically sophisticated person from an earlier generation, she would have no idea what they were or were meant to do. If we’re not gobsmacked by the iPhone and Apple Watch, then maybe our senses are too dulled.
These tools are not primarily for us, of course. They are for Apple and Apple’s shareholders, and if they don’t make Cupertino money they will be gone (note the obsolete 4-inch iPhone SE in my pocket). But awareness need not prohibit delight. Maybe being so suspicious of technology and the corporations making it as to be incapable of marveling at something like a retina display is just the opposite error of the uncritical fawn.