Sociology of Apple Products – Brain-Engaging Retrofuturistic Art

Apple. Sociology. Illustration. Technology. Design. Semiotics. Geekdom.

What the hell do all these things have in common? Well, nothing, really. But French artist/designer/culture-fanatic Stéphane Massa-Bidal somehow managed to shove all these ideas together in some super blender and to actually come up with art. ART.

Beautiful, geeky art. Exactly the kind that we ThoughtPick staff find fascinating.

Before we delve, here is the series “The Sociology of Apple Objects” by French artist Stéphane Massa-Bidal.

In Stéphane’s words…

What is this series, “Sociology of Apple Objects” about?
How did objects come to enter the human collective? Inspired by the research work of sociologist Bruno Latour, these graphics were created with the idea to speak about the marketing hidden behind objects the main goal of the series and how they have an effect on social life. And having some distance about it, there is some construction of a potential user in products.

Interesting. Do you always concentrate much on the conceptual aspect of your technology-critique artwork?
When I used the Penguin bookcovers to illustrate the social web platforms, I used a very typical design: big image and typography, interesting quote, and most importantly, irony.  My question was that series was whether someday, are all of these mediated parts of our lives going to become obsolete?

A Part of my job is to leave a part for interpretation. I love seeing how people understand images and put a part of themselves in explaining what they mean to them. It is a distortion of my own idea…

Are you a fan of technology and social media?
I’m not a fan, I’m just a user.

I think we should use the tools of this world. There is a whole philosophy behind the relationship between social media and the rise of individualism. The two things push in opposite directions, and I think it makes us schizophrenic. The ego develops in one direction and finds its echo in the report to another. It should perhaps analyze it in terms of the theory of evolution.

Hacking the Idea of Technology and its Users

Since Stéphane sounds like he would appreciate a report on how his viewers understand his artwork, I’m going to go all out.

Sociologists. They’re funny people. They are constantly looking, quite desperately, for social links that tie all of us together. Here’s a quote from a paper written by Bruno Latour, which Stéphane noted as an influence on this particular project:

“To delegate labor relations, to “project”– that is to say, to translate– other human properties to an automatic door [Ed.—in our case, our Apple products]? What of those many other innovations that have endowed much more sophisticated doors with the ability to see you arrive in advance (electronic eyes), or to ask for your identity (electronic passes), or to slam shut in case of danger? But anyway, who are you, you the sociologists, to decide for ever the real and final shape (morpfoß) of humans (anqropoß)?”

He also says:

“We have all experienced having a door with a powerful spring mechanism slam in our face. For sure, springs do the job of replacing porters, but they play the rôle of a very rude, uneducated and dumb porter who obviously prefers the wall version of the door to its hole version. They simply slam the door shut. The interesting thing with such impolite doors is this: if they slam shut so violently, it means that you, the visitor have to be very quick in passing through and that you should not be at someone else’s heels, otherwise your nose will get shorter and bloody.”

How fascinating. So basically, the whole idea is that by delegating what should otherwise have been our responsibility to a technology, our positions as “human” and “non-human” are being switched. Traditionally, we’re supposed to hand-deliver a message to an affiliate rather than press a send button on our GMail interface. If the server messes up, and our message gets lost in the bits and bytes of cyberspace, then we are perceived as rude anyway, rather than the non-human interface.


Stéphane translates this idea into his artwork “The Sociology of Apple Objects” like this:

Sociology of Apple Objects — iTunes

Sociology of Apple Objects — iTunes

When the Tro­jans saw the a huge wooden horse, they brought it into their fortress because they thought it was a valuable gift . They took it inside. The Greeks used the Tro­jan horse to win over the Tro­jans. With iTunes, as Stephane so brilliantly illustrates, Apple does just this: they give the free ‘gift’ of iTunes (and who doesn’t love music?) as a way to get into our wallet when we subsequently buy something from the iTunes store or get ourselves an iPod. Brilliant!

Sociology of Apple Objects — iPhone

Sociology of Apple Objects — iPhone

This one is a little easier to grasp, because the touchy-feely attachment that we see everyday with iPhone users is hard to ignore. The sentence used here is very smart: “Pet me, touch me, love me, that’s what I get what I perform. And your wife?”

The machine is taking over our human needs, where we feed it emotional satisfaction rather than the other way round.

Sociology of Apple Objects — iSlate

Sociology of Apple Objects — iSlate

With the Apple “slate” being the most over-hyped non-existing product in history of the world, I really appreciate this one. We indeed have become the tools of our tools, even when these tools have not even been announced! With the world hanging on to Apple’s Wednesday announcement, I should print this out and stick it around.

This work is done by Stephane Massa-Bidal—for more visit Stephane’s Flickr account. You can buy prints of “The Sociology of Apple Objects” on Stephane’s website.

We had previously featured Stephane’s other project: Social Media Through the Eyes of the 1960’s Artist.

What do you think of the whole idea of our roles as “Human” and “Tool” being switched in today’s world? Do you agree? Do you think it’s over the top?

Comments and Reactions

One response to “Sociology of Apple Products – Brain-Engaging Retrofuturistic Art”

  1. Beiruta says:

    I totally agree: we have become tools of our tools; working to serve them, maintain them and make sure they serve our needs! I think it is outrageous! I remember writing a post about it on my blog called: Down with the Machines! It's a crazy world out there and technology is replacing, slowly yet surely, the human touch in everything!

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