Thursday, June 12, 2008

Command Line Performance

Steve Jobs' address to WWTC yesterday was apparently a big event in San Francisco geekdom, from which many in attendance worried that Twitter would be brought down by the heavy traffic. Now that it is archived in online video, complete with stern copyright statement, it is interesting to examine as a rhetorical performance. The Colbert Report has already mocked the giant iPhone that often served as the backdrop to the speakers.

Unlike many of Jobs' appearances, his own part of the program relies heavily on a slickly produced video rather than a "live" demo that he personally orchestrates. The video Jobs showed emphasized the company's cooperation with Microsoft rather than its rivalry with it. Much of the iPhone 2.0 introductory video featured happy clients from Fortune 500 companies that included executives from the Disney corporation and the Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal law firm (who are apparently the people to know if you are undergoing a congressional investigation), along with Lt. Col. C.J. Wallington of the U.S. Army.

Software developers who praised the fluidity of the toolkit from the stage with Jobs and his Apple colleagues of course omitted the monopoly of AT&T, which was constantly apparent in the upper left hand corner. With location-based applications that integrate with social networking sites, the company also hopes to appeal to those who use informal venues for contact as well as professional corporate ones. For example, Loopt plans to turn your mobile phone into a "social compass" that makes "serendipity happen." A project with The Associated Press promises to use the location-based features of the iPhone to help users find news stories that are relevant to the immediate physical environment of a mobile urbanite; AP is also soliciting content from citizen-journalists who can serve as eyewitnesses in the field.

The choice of disciplines represented as prototypical iPhone users seemed significant, because the session's rhetorical appeals were targeted specifically to the era of big data. For example, developers showed iPhone applications intended for medical students studying anatomy and practicing doctors examining digital imagery from their patients.

At the end of the nearly two-hour presentation, Jobs returned to the stage to show an electronic slideshow that emphasized the speed, performance, and affordability of the newest iPhone model. In conclusion he showed the phone's ad twice.

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