Apple iPad mini launch similar to a “religious revival meeting”?

An anthropologist discusses how the recent iPad mini launch has some religious dimensions:

She [anthropologist Kirsten Bell] came to some of the same conclusions as her predecessors, including Eastern Washington University sociologist Pui-Yan Lam, who published an academic paper more than a decade ago that called Mac fandom an “implicit religion.”…

Apple’s product launches take place in a building “littered with sacred symbols, especially the iconic Apple sign itself,” she said. During keynote speeches, an Apple leader “addresses the audience to reawaken and renew their faith in the core message and tenets of the brand/religion.”

Even Apple’s tradition of not broadcasting launches in real time is akin to a religious event, Bell said. (Today’s event was available live on Apple’s website.) “Like many Sacred Ceremonies, the Apple Product Launch cannot be broadcast live,” she wrote. “The Scribes/tech journalists act as Witness, testifying to the wonders they behold via live blog feeds.”…

Yet there are strong reasons people have long compared Apple culture to religion, Bell said. “They are selling something more than a product,” she said. “When you look at the way they advertise their product, it’s really about a more connected life.” A better life is something many faiths promise, she said.

I wrote about this earlier when a commentator made a similar argument after the passing of Steve Jobs.  Comparisons like this, whether it be a product launch or a big sporting event or a rock concert, tend to draw on similar Durkheimian ideas: these are rituals; they can generate feelings of collective effervescence and emotional energy; they can strengthen group bonds; they involve a lot of important symbols that often require some inside knowledge to fully understand; there are clear lines demarcating what is sacred and what is profane. It may not be religion as the public typically thinks of it as involving some real or perceived spiritual or supernatural forces but its actions and consequences could be similar.

 

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