A top anthropologist at the University of British Columbia in Canada has concluded a study of Apple product launches by stating that the company is operating a religion.
Kirsten Bell, who visited the recent launch of the iPad Mini, follows in the footsteps of Eastern Washington University sociologist Pui-Yan Lam, who published an academic paper more than a decade ago that called Mac fandom an “implicit religion”.
She wrote in the Christian Science Monitor that a stranger observing one of the launches could probably be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into a religious revival meeting.
Bell now studies the culture of modern biomedical research, but is an expert on messianic religious movements in South Korea.
She said that an Apple product launch takes place in a building “littered with sacred symbols, especially the iconic Apple sign itself”.
Keynote speeches feature an Apple leader reawakened and renewing their faith in the core message and tenets of the brand/religion.
The tradition of not broadcasting launches in real time is akin to a religious event where it is forbidden to broadcast Sacred Ceremonies.
Instead scribes or its Tame Apple Press act like the writers of the gospels, “testifying to the wonders they behold” in a completely non objective way.
Bell said that the idea of Apple-as-religion isn’t a perfect analogy, in fact it is pretty superficial.
She said that religion was trying to do something different from a computer brand. Religion tries to give life meaning and explain humanity’s purpose, she said. We guess she can’t believe that the standards of the world have become so low that its purpose is to buy new techy toys.
But in some ways it clearly is a religion. Apple is selling something more than a product, it is “really about a more connected life,” she said.
This is the sort of stuff many faiths promise, she added.
Apple always emphasises its origin story and its founder, Steve Jobs. Few other technology companies are so strongly associated with one person, she said.
It is true that Apple has largely managed to write Steve Wozniak out of its religion. It is sad really because Jobs would not have succeeded without Woz. And arguably, Woz is a better role model.