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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.”

The ad for the nuud by Lifeproof. The ad shows up in the December 2012 issue of Wired Magazine.

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.


Jason Braun is a musician, poet, mixed media artist, radio host, teacher, and hacker extraordinaire. He performs under Jason and the Beast, and his latest album, Made This For You: The Mix Tape As Literaturecame out this year. He is also one of the hosts for 88.1 KDHX’s Literature for the Halibut. Check him out at his site, jasonandthebeast.com.

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  • http://twitter.com/JonathanRWegner Jonathan R Wegner (@JonathanRWegner)

    Kevin — you got it in one.
    Overall the concept — and the Creative Director may disagree — was to demonstrate freedom and the cutting-of-the-chain. It was certainly about shifting people’s perception in how (and where) they can use tech.
    I’m glad to see that some of the nuances of the creative were spotted by the eagle-eyed.
    J.

    • http://criticalmargins.wordpress.com Kevin Eagan

      Thanks for reading, Jon. Great to hear we got it right. I’ll have to get Jason Braun, the guest writer of this post, in on this conversation as well, but basically, it was an interesting approach to advertising a product like this and works for the Wired mag demographic.

  • http://jasonandthebeast.wordpress.com jasonandthebeast

    After talking with Benson Schliesser of Juniper Networks and Cisco Systems about this ad and my commentary of it, I realize that I was simplifying the philosophy of hackers. In truth just as there is more than one take on existentialism there is more than one take on hacker philosophy. This would be more clearly described as hacker philosophies. Marcus Griffin, a St. Louis based graphic designer (who also has a philosophy degree) echoed this idea of the plurality and suggested it was worth a blog post of its own. I’m cooking that up soon.

    I was most interested in the fact that the narrative started by Apple continued in someway, and was being refashioned by a company which makes assessors for it. This is a much more symbiotic relationship than most models aim for. This is in contrast to the way a lot of companies have a hard enough time just getting there own people to tell the same story: The metanarrative of the company. In this case (pun intended) even other companies are retelling that metanarrative and hitting most of the talking points.

    Benson reminded me that this, extending and amplifying the narrative of one company by another company is one effect of the “ecosystem” that companies like Apple that create. In this way adverting becomes a little like fan fiction. I don’t consider that phrase to be a putdown. Shakespeare did it, then Tom Stoppard did it to Shakespeare and Harold Bloom calls it cantaminatio. Bloom explains: “The ancient Roman stage trope, cantaminatio, which could be called a kind of interlacing between an old play and a new one.”

  • Ed

    You missed the most important aspect of the ad Number 009, she is fantatically beautiful…!!!

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