October 6th, 2011

Why exactly did people take Steve Jobs’s death so hard? I don’t much care to argue over whether or not this was the appropriate feeling to have, or whether another death was more deserving of this emotion. The fact remains, they did. The easy answer: Steve Jobs was a Great Man whose influence over contemporary culture is virtually inescapable. Through brute force alone, and pressure exerted by the world around us, the heart responds. I wonder, though, if it doesn’t have to do with the nature of Apple products. The iPod’s triumph—and to some degree, that of the snazzy Mac before it and the nascent iPad since—was to create a singular, personal space by means of a technological vessel. This effect was transitive, if backward; the metal and plastic were imbued with the memories and associations that music, in digital, context-less form, bundled up in one place. Those were the rules of the game, the order of things, and they were embodied in the device—stylish, elliptical, and slightly frivolous—that made this sound-space possible.

It makes perfect sense that Jobs himself would be, so to speak, taken personally. He was the one who allowed them to live more fully through technology. They created this version of Apple and its leader, but without the cues provided by technology, it wouldn’t have happened. Are we happy? Thank Steve Jobs. Does technology render us that powerless when it comes to matters of lifestyle and identity? Then thank Steve Jobs for that, too, out of a fealty that should leave an odd, acrid taste our mouths. Even if you’ve never owned Apple once. He’s gotten to you somehow.