By Jethro Alons An article in De Pers last week examined the success of Apple in the light of the impending introduction of the new iPad. In this article Apple was compared to a religion. Apparently, research showed that when people see the brand Apple the same areas in the brain become active as in people who are religious. Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, himself said that his products are a mix of art, science and religion.
Although my inner anthropologist is always excited at the prospects of a new form of religion, I have to say I was quite skeptical about this. Apple as religion? Really? Scientific research done by a marketing researcher or what the CEO of a company says about his product doesn’t really convince me. This might have something to do with the fact that I have never been much of an Apple “devotee” (I only bought an iPod because I couldn’t find any other good mp3 players).
But when I saw my roommate staring intently at his macbook watching a picture-by-picture account of the conference which introduced the new iPad, it did get me thinking there was something more to it. Many of my friends are Apple “devotees”, some of them making attempts to “convert” me to Apple.
When I watched a video of the conference which introduced the iPad it struck me that Steve Jobs talks like a priest. He uses the same tone of voice and intonation that you see in American priests on television. This reminded me of the notion of civil religion, in which religious expressions and sensations are used by politicians in relation to the state. I think Steve Jobs is trying to do the same here, coating Apple in a religious dip and setting it in an aura of the sacred.
If we look at Durkheims work, we get a better understanding of Apple as a religion. Durkheim says that religion is essentially society worshipping itself, and its own norms and values. I think that many “devotees” who look at Apple see a company with the same ideology when it comes to technology. They want to push the boundaries of technology, think outside of the boxes that many of technology and software companies have created. And they want it user friendly in a sleek and beautiful design.
I have to say, taking all this in account, I understand the notion of Apple as a religion a little better. I think we can say that Apple has religious characteristics and qualities. As Steve Jobs himself said, Apple’s mix has religion in it. But a real religion? I’m still not convinced.
Jethro Alons is a student of Anthropology at the VU. See an earlier article he wrote on the occasion of a guest lecture about Harvey Whithouse’s Explaining Religion project.