Truly magical: Advertising rhetoric and the iPad

TitleTruly magical: Advertising rhetoric and the iPad
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Eanes, R.
Affiliation (1st Author)University of Oregon
Section or WGEmerging Scholars Network Section
DateWed 26 June
Slot CodeESNW4a
Slot Code (Keyword)ESNW4a
Time of Session16:00-17:30
Session TitleInformation Economy
Submission ID5157

Since its introduction in April 2010, the iPad has been marketed as more than just a mobile tablet computer. Apple’s press release touted the device as “magical and revolutionary,” with the late Steve Jobs making headlines by parroting this language. The talismanic powers of the iPad quickly became apparent to retailers, with small and large stores alike clamoring to stock the tablet in order to drive up sales during a particularly weak period of consumer spending. While the hyperbolic language surrounding the iPad’s introduction could simply be dismissed as a brilliantly clever marketing ploy, the notion of the iPad as somehow more than the sum of its parts—that it is, in fact, in some way, “magical”—has persisted nearly three years after the introduction of the original model. What, exactly, is “magic” about the iPad? Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law, as is well known, states, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” but the iPad was initially panned by some critics as nothing more than a “big iPod touch.” Such criticisms call into question the iPad as a particularly “advanced” device, both in terms of hardware and software. And yet, as Evelyn Graham notes, our technological tools seem to be shaping our relationships and evolution as a species as they grow more complex,, “We are increasingly dependent on machines not just for the luxuries of life but for the very basics of survival.” This paper will examine the “magical” marketing language that was associated with the introduction of the iPad in 2010 and places these marketing messages in a cultural and historical context. Further, it examines how these initial notions of “magicalness” have persisted through time, and explores whether we are seeing a lexical or ontological shift in how we approach, understand and discuss technologies today.

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