This article discusses a cluster of specific technologies and practices in the history of the mobile phone in the U.S. and Europe that have been crucial for the success of Apple’s iPhone. It argues that Apple has integrated these developments along three major strategies: all-in-one, customization, and location-awareness. Unraveling these histories and strategies allows us to circumvent the blind spot created by looking at the iPhone solely as a magic object catering to the personal needs of the mobile user. What lies between the object and the subject is a complex assemblage of technologies, actors, and space-bound practices that situate the product and the consumer in an expansive, commodified, and increasingly modulated environment at the heart of which lies the entanglement of user agency and corporate control.
About the author
Ginette Verstraete is Professor of Comparative Arts and Media at the VU, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her current research explores the significance of participatory urbanism in Western Europe, from 1960s to the current moment and focuses on the role that media, art and design have played in this.