July 23, 2010

Apple consumers as religious adherents

We already know that there’s an iPhone app for enlightenment, but is it possible that Apple itself is a religion? In an interesting blog post at the Atlantic, entitled “The Varieties of Religious Experience: How Apple Stays Divine,” Alexis Madrigal highlights the work of scholars who study Apple’s consumers as religious devotees.

In particular, Madrigal focuses on the work of media scholar Heidi Campbell from Texas A&M, who discusses four myth narratives that consumers are told and tell themselves to attach themselves to the brand. Campbell summarizes these narratives like this:

1. a creation myth highlighting the counter-cultural origin and emergence of the Apple Mac as a transformative moment;
2. a hero myth presenting the Mac and its founder Jobs as saving its users from the corporate domination of the PC world;
3. a satanic myth that presents Bill Gates as the enemy of Mac loyalists;
4. and, finally, a resurrection myth of Jobs returning to save the failing company...

The idea is that consumers use these myth narratives to cultivate a devotion and loyalty to a brand similar to adherents of different religions. It should be pointed out that Campbell’s abstract for her paper refers to the iPhone as the ‘Jesus phone,’ so perhaps she’s only considering Christian mythological frameworks when she says “religion.” That would make sense, I suppose, since a Judeo-Christian worldview, at least on a cultural subconscious level, serves as the primary meaning-making reference point for the majority of people in the Western world. Judeo-Christian symbols and myths and always lurking beneath the surface of things. In fact, these myths probably works best at the subconscious level—who would admit to being in an Apple cult?

Not sure how many Buddhists out there are also fervent followers of Apple (I’m a big Mac fellow myself), but, as far as blindly consuming products goes, “don’t believe the hype” sounds like pretty good Buddhist advice to me. Don’t believe anything until you’ve experienced it’s truth personally. Of course, I have personally experienced the truth of many Apple products, so I'm not just a sheep... right?

Image: from brew ha ha's Flikr photostream

Share with a Friend

Email to a Friend

Already a member? Log in to share this content.

You must be a Tricycle Community member to use this feature.

1. Join as a Basic Member

Signing up to Tricycle newsletters will enroll you as a free Tricycle Basic Member.You can opt out of our emails at any time from your account screen.

2. Enter Your Message Details

Enter multiple email addresses on separate lines or separate them with commas.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
KnowThankYou's picture

I've also been a Mac user for several years. For me as a user, the design and high quality build of Macs have Windows-based pcs beaten several times over. I understand the religion metaphor, and find that same metaphor can be applied to many other things in life. Animal rights activists, Harley Davidson enthusiasts, Star Trek fans, and more. Lives may sometimes be changed for the better by many different types of interests, and may sometimes be changed for the worse by many different types of obsessions.

suzanne's picture

yep - Apple/Mac user here too. As are several Buddhist friends of mine.

Twitter Trackbacks for Tricycle » Apple consumers as religio's picture

[...] Tricycle » Apple consumers as religious adherents tricycle.com/blog/?p=2092 – view page – cached We already know that there’s an iPhone app for enlightenment, but is it possible that Apple itself is a religion? In an interesting blog post at the Atlantic, entitled “The Varieties of Religious Experience: How Apple Stays Divine,” Alexis Madrigal highlights the work of scholars who study Apple’s consumers as religious devotees. Tweets about this link [...]

@pixelsrzen's picture

Or, maybe we just like stuff that looks nice, works well most of the time, and are willing to pay for the opportunity?

Sheep? *shakes head*

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, yanno?

Considering Apple has exceeded Microsoft in market capitalization, and is about to pass them in gross revenue, isn't it about time to stop seeing Apple devotees as 'them', and surrender to the reality that more and more they are becoming 'us'?

*shrugs*

Eve's picture

Don't listen to Adam; he doesn't approve of my Apple.

Adam's picture

This is great!