I can hear the floods recede through my iPod phone

I’m actually surprised to see the way major media outlets — The New York Times, the BBC, and others — have rabidly covered the “news” about a new iPod/cellphone hybrid. I have no issues with iPods or cellphones and use both items, like a lot of people with the means to do so. But once again, we’re faced with a tear in the fabric of reporting what’s actually happening in the world and the need to “report” the content of Apple’s PR statements.

Pogue162Picture 3-1

Every time Apple comes out with a product the release is treated as newsworthy. The items are technically filed under “Technology,” but they always seem to find themselves on the homepages of major news outlets. Again, I use Apple products and, for the most part, like them, but this is a case of Apple convincing writers and consumers that it is something more than a computer company, that it represents a social revolution of some kind. Remember those “Think Different” ads featuring Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and other peace/revolutionary types? Well, Apple, isn’t revolutionary, and it won’t make the world more peaceful. It will continue to give us cool gadgets and a great computing experience, but that’s all. The “Mac faithful,” as some call them, treat the company with reverence usually reserved for, um, actual political revolutionaries.

At the very least we should direct this sort of praise at open source folks like Mozilla, who are actually trying to change the role that software plays in our lives by making it free which, to me, translates to a desire and need to offer technology to the places around the world that still need it. Because those places are so poor, we can’t offer them Mac OS X, which is proprietary, not open source, or any other operating system besides something Linux-based. But let’s celebrate that possibility.

Or maybe all the poor need is a cellphone/iPod hybrid. That will put food in their bellies.

So look at the two pictures above, both of which ran in the New York Times. Is there a problem with so triumphantly flouting a new gadget while people struggle to not die?

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  1. “Is there a problem with so triumphantly flouting a new gadget while people struggle to not die?”

    Not as long as I have a job. Whoops! May have spoken too soon.

  2. Point 1: Personal computers and the internet have revolutionized communications, economics, journalism, art, etc.

    Point 2: No individual or company has been more influential in the development of the personal computer than Apple
    – first personal computer
    – first mouse
    – first portable computer
    – first floppy drive
    – first sound and video
    – first built-in networking

    Ergo: Apple is revolutionary

    Plus that nano is totally rad.

  3. The lack of response from Josh I can only take to mean that he is out purchasing his own iPod phone, or trying to finagle one out of Todd.

  4. This reminds me a little of the question…

    Is it right for anyone to own a mansion while there are homeless people?

    Part of me would say, “no its not right”
    But as I learn more how the economy works, I feel that I understand, that its not rich people who inherently demand peopl stay poor, its the specific capitalist or ownership class, which is more wealthy than “rich people” and also engages society a much more malicious way.

    So, is it wrong to write about Apple products while people are dying in New Orleans? While I agree, that the paper shouldn’t be a forum for Apple to make press releases, there are different parts of the paper dedicated to covering different things, and covering apple products doesn’t inherently cause poor coverage of the Hurricane, even though, forget what Jon Stewart says, this coverage has been awful!

  5. No, Josh has a life and doesn’t constantly monitor his ccomments.

    I agree with DJC about points 1 and 2, but would still argue that Apple isn’t “revolutionary” in the way I and a lot of people use that word. They have “revolutionized” personal computing, which is important, but I think of revolutions being on a grander scale than that, more macro-level political, things that change the state of public life. While personal computers have changed the way we work and the way we play, and allowed some workers to upgrade their work and others to get left behind, we’re still stuck with same assholes in power, the same problems of class inequality, a huge deficit, wars we can’t stop, deadly racism, and other nice things. Apple hasn’t stopped any of that from happening, nor can they. A revolution might.

  6. Gary, I agree with you completely. I’m typing this on an Apple computer while my iPod gets charged next to me. I have no problem with Apple or people’s enthusiasm for its products, but I do have an issue with the way the media elevates coverage of Apple to beyond technology, to a level that actually competes for space with Katrina coverage. It strikes me as absurd.

  7. In a slightly connected point. I think we need to be careful when we assume holding onto technology is related to a certain affluency.

    For example, I have a cell phone, which one could determine means I have a certain level of wealth, but I think it might be more telling to view it from a different perspective. The cell phone becomes a neccessary part of my labor. So for example on a film production, everyone is expected to have a cell phone, and part of that is because you might get a call at 3am from the 2nd AD asking about the next day.

    So what has happened, is I ask a working person have to pay $70 a month to acquire a tool, that is used by my boss to get more work from me.

    I guess my point, is that class is about to what extent can you participate in power, a cell phone it could be argued demonstrates wealth, but it also serves as a tool for my exploitation, and doesn’t at all change my relation to power.

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