Today’s guest post comes from Jason Braun, a poet, mixed media artist, and musician from the St. Louis, MO area. Check out Jason’s web site at jasonandthebeast.com.
The October issue of Wired Magazine is “The Design Issue,” and it is fruitful to think of this particular issue and theme as being the right time and place for a full-page advertisement for the nuud, a case for the iPad designed by LifeProof. The iPad is produced by Apple, which is a company obsessed with design. Wired’s target market is a white, male, Apple-buying collection of “hackers.”
This target market positions itself in contrast or even at war with the PC users. Apple and PC (or IBM-based personal computers) have been battling for the mind space of business and consumers since the Ridley Scott-directed dystopian commercial, which aired in 1984, that depicted IBM in terms of a Big Brother-like all-seeing despot out of George Orwell’s novel, 1984. This same idea of breaking out of the oppressive forces of society has been picked up by the companies who are making accessories for Apple products. It is no longer a blonde woman running to throw a hammer at the screen that sees all – now man runs naked among women at an adventure race.
The out of shape, naked hero here is like that runner in the dystopian vision, though, because he too is not a number. “We are one people with one will and one resolve…we shall prevail,” says the Big Brother in that 1984 commercial. Whereas in the LifeProof ad, only our hero is without a number, all the others have clothing and racing entry numbers. The fact that all the other runners are women legitimizes the naked hero’s body as masculine, in spite of his round form and its androgyny.
The other runners believe that they will prevail, just as IBM thought they would, because they had been doing the status quo, showing up on time, and following the rules–the naked hero believes in making his own route to victory by using codes, cheats, shortcuts, and loopholes in any given system. This is what “hacking” is all about. It is possible that he might win the race, just because of the spectacle he is making of himself.
Our hero might have read the fine print in the rules of the Mud-Athon and found a loophole stating if a runner arrives late, they may still compete in the race if they remove all of their clothing. This would encourage most runners to show up on time. Or more likely our naked hero did not officially enter the race and is doing this on a dare or merely to test himself after sitting too long in a cubicle.
This advertisement epitomizes hacker philosophy. Hackers do things because they want to see if they can do them. Hackers do things to prove a point. Hackers do things because they like to break the rules. For the hacker, the official trophy handed out at the end is less valuable than handcuffs or a pat on the back from friends at the next indie rock show or even getting props online under an alias or screen name. The philosophy of the hacker is one that always looks for the easiest way to win. The hacker read the rules to find the loopholes. The hacker is always asking, how can this be done faster? While this type of thinking smacks of too good to be true, we should remember that once messages took says to cross the country on the Pony Express, now they are nearly instantaneous in email.
While our naked hero is a hacker and lover of technology, he is not one to be burdened by it. He is not going to be owned by his possession. This is a reaction to the book and film Fight Club when its hero says, “The things we own, end up owning us.” Around the office, he has seen his friends sporting the newest gadgets and gawking and fetishizing them in an un-manly way. This won’t do for our hero.
He may have a new Subaru WRX parked outside his house, but he is not cooing over its paint job. He enjoys it for its turbo and all wheel drive and its attention to design. He looks for function and design that makes his life easier, to allow him to get his work done more quickly than the rest of his peers. This time that he has freed up from the bosses hands will be used in his various pursuits: parasitic entrepreneurialism in creating his own app designing business using the time and resources of his employer unknowingly, hurling, retrofitting old Mercedes to run on biofuel, and volunteering at the local science center to work off some community service hours ordered for a drunken disorderly conduct charge.
Fight Club told men, “You are not your khakis,” and this is clearly true for our naked hero. He is limiting his possession to the tools and technology that will improve his life: eye glasses, a digital watch, and presumable shoes and the iPad. This iPad that many people fuss over, and hold as if it were something from a museum is covered in a simple case that provided protection yet “leaves your screen naked, for unobstructed resolution and touch no matter where you choose to take it.”
Our hero might still be out there in the forest. It’s getting cold. He’s watching a youtube video on starting a fire. He’s hunting for a flint and a dry patch of twigs.