Apple keynote events: the Macguffin of mythinformation

Tonight saw the latest Apple “Special Event”, and the launch of some new shiny kit and software from Cupertino. This seems a timely opportunity to plug a project I’ve helped out on for Sage publishing. 

CommunicationSpace is an online community space for the discussion of media and communication research. In my first posting to the site, I wrote a retrospective of Patrice Flichy’s paper The Construction of New Digital Media from 1999. In the paper Flichy describes how new media technology is imbued with mythic qualities and ideologies even before it is launched. This process is facilitated by sections of the media (notable Wired) who champion certain positions about the new technologies.
While reading the paper, I reflected on the way in which, eleven years on, we now construct what a new technology is and what it means. Flichy writes about the use of “mythinformation” presented to us by technology commentators and used when we frame the utility of a technology and create an understanding of it. The route from manufacturer, to commentator to consumer is not as simple as it was.

It occurs to me that in today’s technology and new media press, the Apple keynote is the Macguffin of mythinformation: speculation, rumour, and wish all build towards the event, the myth is reified in some way during the event, and then is given back to us for further construction. It drives the myth, creates and speaks to it all at once, but actually is a wholly meaningless spectacle. Blogging and social media would seem to be key to this process, and indeed the construction and imaging of a technology is no longer the preserve of the taste makers in technology magazines. Now consumers and journalists are co-constucting contemporary technological imaginaries on the fly.

As a side note, I wrote the review mostly as annotations to the original document – if you join CommunicationSpace you an access the Flichy paper complete with my annotations.

Thanks to Jamie Potter for pointing out the obvious pun I should have made on my original spelling “Mcguffin” 🙂

By Jon Hickman

Hi, I'm Jon. I teach and research digital culture, social media and new media practice at Birmingham City University. Find out more about me with this lovely CV: Find out about my work at the Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research: