Parasite or Love?
Two days after the Apple store moved several blocks south on Michigan Avenue to its new riverfront location, I stopped by the old Apple store to see what remained. I was greeted by an all-black wall where a sleek glass storefront once welcomed me, with what was for me an intriguing statement stenciled in white: "We would never leave you."
That statement has rolled around in my brain for the last several weeks. One thing seems sure to me: The copywriter gave a lot of thought to those five simple words, which is not surprising given Apple's clever advertisements over the years. Remember Justin Long and John Hodgman? Ironically, the clunky PC has had the staying power when measuring Long and Hodgman's career longevity. Hodgman may have been clunky in appearance, but he had a far superior operating system.
I have come to conclude that the five words that flew by as I sat on the CTA's 146 bus each time I headed home hold multiple meanings. Ostensibly, Apple is expressing its love for me. We are in a committed monogamous relation, although without the headphone jack it is hard to physically manifest our mutual feelings.
The question is whether Apple is a person or some other living being. That might seem to be an outlandish question at first, but it can be viewed as a logical extension of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in In Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, 258 U.S. ___ (2010).
I for one, much like those who object to the ruling in Citizens United that corporations are persons when its comes to the First Amendment and expressive political speech, find the suggestion that I am in a committed personal relationship with Apple both sinister and sobering. I have a strong suspicion that the Apple copywriter is either in agreement with me, or loves the wink and the nod that comes with double entendre. The more I think about those five words, the less I see a voluntary relationship. Although I willingly entered the Apple ecosystem in 2001 after I was overcome with disgust at Microsoft Windows 2000, I now find myself once again entangled with a corporation, or as those five words can be read to mean, a parasite. Apple, like the major tech companies, behaves just like a parasite. It started with an iMac, but then I added an iPod, a MacBook, an iPhone, three-different sized iPads, iTunes, Apple TV, apps from the Apple Apps store, ApplePay, an Apple watch, and a host of Apple-branded peripherals. It is pushing AppleMusic, but so far my system has resisted--Tidal is my streaming service. To summarize, like a parasite, Apple has grown bigger as it resides in the host body.
But it doesn't stop there. Like a parasite, Apple doesn't just reside in me. It sucks my blood for nutrition, with blood being my personal information. Purchase information, contact information, browser information, iTunes information, etc. I guess that is not surprising because we live in the information age. Apple is not alone. There are other parasites that inhabit my being. Google has implanted search, Drive, and a suite. Facebook is in there, too. Imagine all the information it sucks from me as I express my most intimate thoughts to my 157 best friends. I still use Microsoft Office, so Microsoft must still have a file on me.
Yes, those five words are sinister, which is why I needed to document and preserve them with a photograph. It took about 100 tries to get one I liked. This was the best, and astonishingly, the woman walking past the storefront is a classmate of mine in the University of Chicago's Basic program. It was not planned or staged. In fact, she was moving so briskly that I didn't even get a chance to say, "Hi." As I watched people go by, I realized that somewhat ironically, Apple's message was lost on them. Glued to their screens, most people didn't even notice that a large corporation was expressing its love and concern for their well being, and therein lies the irony, as well as the frightening reality of modern existence. We are so consumed by our digital parasites that we are unaware that these parasites are consuming us from within.
Photographer's Notes: This photograph was made using the Fuji GFX 50s. Because the location is Michigan Avenue during holiday season, I was unable to use a tripod. I handheld camera, with the shutter speed set to 1/15th of a second.