I was out walking the dogs this morning, and I was listening to an, erm, popular Apple pundit talk with another Apple pundit on the former’s podcast when I was struck really struck by a clear and forceful idea, which I have no idea why I’m burying it so far down here. But it’s that — these two weren’t really saying anything unreasonable, but they seemed to be giving Apple a lot of latitude for certain weird (or at least arbitrary-seeming) decisions — and I was like, These guys would be tearing up Google or Amazon for this but they give Apple a total pass. Why? Like honestly, why?
And it’s really obvious, but it’s because they privilege Apple’s design and engineering decisions, and then, yes it struck:
The way that people (pundits, writers, technologists, TED talk types) seem to treat Apple almost exactly resembles the structure of privilege seen in or enjoyed by men and/or different racial majorities.
Ie, there exists something that I’d call “Apple privilege”.
Apple privilege is that their arbitrary design decisions are accepted on faith. Apple privilege is that its products “just work”. How do they work? Well, they work in narrowly prescribed ways that Apple intends, but that’s taken as the “right way” for things to “work”. (Apple’s UI is “natural” - and more troublingly, patentable, like the human genome.) Apple privilege is that there are innumerable and subtle ways that Apple’s “user experience” is obviously superior to non-Apple user experiences. Apple privilege is that Apple is the biggest company in the world, and it has achieved that distinction only through merit - rather than by taking advantage of tax loopholes, a monopoly on the raw materials needed (by it and every other tech company), a ruthless supply chain, and a strict reliance on the economic benefits of and economy of scale created by manufacturing its goods and components in a small part of China. (Apple privilege is also not wanting to talk about that in any reasonable way, or only talking about it by way of saying that “everyone does that”.) Apple privilege is that its very idea of computing just is computing now, and it’s affecting the whole world.
Apple has become the predominate tech company and the predominate late-capitalist American company by subliming consumer desire into a new form of privileging one conception of corporate experience.
Is that evil or bad or anything? Not exactly. But like any other type of privilege, it’s worth examining and certainly shouldn’t be ignored (as either trolling or hating or just ‘not getting it’). And there’s an even more delicious (if you like eating crap sandwiches, maybe) irony in that Apple pundits and writers have been, in my experience (probably because I don’t follow any other types of tech pundit, though) in my experience Apple pundits are some of the most regressive, sexist types. So other than the hardline Libertarian hacktivist types who would favor a Windows or Linux experience, Apple pundits and defenders have this pseudo-naturalized idea of meritocracy and excellence that we all know is not necessarily earned in a vacuum and certainly not worthy of praise.
This all is really just a spitballed idea I had ten minutes ago on a walk, but maybe there’s something to it.