July 23, 2010
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