Technospecter: The Missing Element

“New media studies has drawn very little on the discourse of industrial production.” – Seth Perlow, On Production for Digital Culture: iPhone Girl, Electronics Assembly, and the Material Forms of Aspiration

It is safe to argue that the general assumption around the initial real use of technology is done by the consumer. We are the ones paying the money for our gadgets and gizmos; we are the ones to open the box; we are the ones who activate these devices; we are the ones called users. Our role as consumers/users are both highlighted and publicized when it comes to the usage of machinery such as the smart phone, the tablet, or the GPS system. However, Seth Perlow reintroduces to us a side to technological industrial production that is often overlooked: the hands who assemble these items for us. “The embodiment of users has emerged as a major stake in the critical discourse on new media, but scholars have largely avoided the difficult questions about this other set of bodies: those that build our computers, our televisions, our mobile phones,” (Perlow, 246).


The iPhone Girl phenomenon back in 2008 may have resurfaced discussions around a plethora of industrial production topics such as child labor, factory conditions, company discipline, workers’ rights, etc. But to veer away from being too politically dense, it is also important to see that the direct relationship between consumer and product is what creates the lack of space for us to understand the “links between electronics assembly and the consumerist standpoint dominating new media aesthetics,” (Perlow, 247). The notion that the effectiveness of new products depends heavily on the consumer/user is not entirely true; the effectiveness also depends on the quality of work regarding the building of these products or, to go even further back, the successful development of a prototype. The Microsoft Xbox Kinect generated an overall level of satisfaction for consumers, especially for it being a precursor for future gaming, with regards to the Sega Activator. Nonetheless, the technological breakdown of the Xbox Kinect, which contains gears, sensors, motors, bases, and more should harbor more attention from people other than hankered tech nerds. It is a careful compilation of rudiments, like art, skillfully placed together for public enjoyment.

“In whose name and by whose hands do our digital fantasies become reality?” – (Perlow, 246).

My answer to that question would definitely be the people like iPhone Girl, the ones responsible for the assembly of our products—and the ones who we run back to once our products are broken.

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