In Tom Gunning’s essay, Re-Newing Old Technologies, Gunning argues that in order to learn from a cultural history of technology, we must go back tin time and revisit when the old technologies were new (Gunning 39). One piece of technology that significantly shifted our social culture was the first iPhone, which was released on June 29th, 2007. The iPhone was truly revolutionary at the time, dramatically changing the way that we communicate with the world with the first true touch screen and its vast amount of features no other smartphone could compete with (Frommer). The following meme depicts how various groups of people conceptualize the iPhone today.
In order to completely understand the cultural history of the iPhone, we must examine it at “the point of introduction, before it became part of nearly invisible every day life of habit and routine” (Ibid). To accomplish this task, we can use the following method as mentioned in Gunning’s essay:
Onians Four Stages of Amazement (Gunning 41):
1. A striking experience, usually visual, but sometimes aural.
2. A consequent physical paralysis.
3. A reaction which results in something being learned, and may be followed by
4. A new action
The first time I saw and got the chance to use the first iPhone was incredible. I remember how sleek and well designed the phone was, and all I could think about was how bad I wanted to have one. As soon as I picked the phone up, I immediately entered the second stage of amazement. It was like I got locked away in a room with just the phone. Nothing else seemed to exist around me; I was truly engrossed in the phone and began to discover and learn about everything little thing on the phone. This then led me right into the third stage; I began to understand all of the little nuances and was able to navigate the phone perfectly in order to do what I wanted to do. This inevitably put me into the fourth and final stage: a new action. After I learned everything about the phone and all of the things it was capable of doing, I found myself checking my phone hundreds of times a day; whether it was to surf the web or play a game, it did not matter.
This concept of being “glued” to your phone is clearly demonstrated in the meme above. For example, in the first image that depicts what parents think of the iPhone: the mom feels invisible to her daughter who is engrossed into her phone. Additionally, the third image shows how teachers feel like nobody is paying attention to her because all of her students are too distracted from their phones.
While the iPhone changed our culture significantly, nothing has come along in the recent years that is “new” like the iPhone was at the time of its release. All the new iPhones are small upgrades to the same concept that generally serve the same purpose as the first one. This really draws some questions in the sense of when something really “new” will come along and revolutionize the smartphone world again and change our culture.
Frommer, Dan. “10 Ways The IPhone Changed Smartphones Forever.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 19 June 2009. Web. 25 Jan. 2014.
Gunning, Tom. (2003) “Re-Newing Old Technologies: Astonishment, SecondNature, and the Uncanny in Technology from the Previous Turn-of the Century”. In D. Thorburn and H. Jenkins (eds), Rethinking Media Change:The Aesthetics of Transition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp 39-60.