Saturday, January 30, 2010

Coach Potatoes

There has been a certain amount of juvenile joking about the feminizing of a corporation that decides to develop a product called the "iPad," but many have also been struck by another aspect of its marketing strategy, the appeal to white men with the exclusion of almost any other demographic. After all, the official iPad video with the pitch from designers and prototypical users features an all-Caucasian all-male cast, as the folks at tech-rhet have already observed. And just look at their puzzlement when they must acknowledge that this feminine thing is "so thin" and "so light" and yet also "so capable."

Part of this advertising approach seems to have to do with Apple's embrace of a minimalist macho/anti-macho aesthetic that features a lone pomo male reflecting on his own disempowerment and alienation, sort of like the figures from Dwell magazine parodied on the blog Unhappy Hipsters.

For example, listen as the lead man on the promotional video talks about "when something exceeds your ability to understand how it works" or Steve Jobs speaking about how "intimate" the experience of interaction is to see how it problematizes the traditional rhetoric of the tool, even as its "large" and "powerful" qualities are repeated several times, along with references to the heroic efforts of the designers as those who rebuild from the ground up and make "revolutionary" discoveries. Yes, there are also appeals to active domination with the instrumentality of the gadget at his service, but there is certainly a mixed message that includes passive reception when our protagonist says, "I don't have to change myself to fit the product; it fits me."

Indeed, it is the fact that the iPad is a menu of consumer choices to be passively apprehended that places the men of Apple in an odd position, as even the main demo of Steve Jobs demonstrates. Jobs, of course, has been sick of late, so his handlers may have preferred to have him take it easy in his annual demo performance, but having so much of his rhetoric about a new product be delivered from a couch definitely sends a different message from some of his more energetic demos with tool authoring of old.

For those feeling nostalgic for the demos of the younger jobs, here is a blooper reel that includes some of his more regrettable moments of improvisation.

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