Apple iPad Jason's Verse
Two months ago Apple re-launched the “Your Verse” campaign to sell iPads. I am absolutely the target audience for these commercials. I’m 25, I’m a young “professional”, I grew up with technology and use it every day, I find it easy to navigate new online tools, I appreciate design and aesthetics, and admittedly I can sometimes be a bit of a Chipster (Chicana + Hipster). Most importantly, when Apple asks me “What will your verse be?” I feel like I have a response. I’m the type of person who is determined to shape the world around me, and there have been probably thousands of articles written about how my generation feels like this. You could go read them or you could just ask someone my age. We want to know that what we are doing matters. I don’t think this is something that just my generation feels, but we are the ones people want to write listicles about. I also don’t think that this type of self-involvement is a bad thing. When Apple tries to use this trait that some of my friends and I share to sell us stuff, I seriously think about how buying an iPad or some other Apple product could make me better at the things I want to do.
One thing I want to do is be a community organizer. Sometimes I’m good at it and sometimes I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m always looking for tools to help me be a better organizer and that is why Apple’s “Jason’s Verse” commercial struck a nerve. On one hand I’m happy to see that an influential brand like Apple would feature a community activist in the ranks of the more traditionally “cool” professionals featured in their other Your Verse commercials. Rarely to do we see community activists lifted to the level of rock stars. Young people need to know that being a community organizer can be fun. In Apple’s commercial we see Jason Hall, an organizer of Detroit’s weekly Slow Roll mass bike ride, biking around Detroit and talking to cool looking people in modern hip looking spaces all while doing cutting-edge stuff on his iPad. We see him setting up meetings, checking the weather, designing a flyer, and planning the route for his bike ride. At the end of the commercial we see hundreds of people show up to a warehouse and ride off into the sunset with the Detroit skyline in the background. Community organizing? Easy. Especially if you can afford an iPad that will cost you anywhere from $250-$850.
What we really need to deconstruct here is how Apple inserted itself into community organizing because that is where things get really problematic. The Detroit Slow Roll is one of the biggest community bike rides in the country and attracts almost 2,000 people every week to cruise through Detroit and see the city’s revitalization efforts. In a second commercial by Apple we hear Jason talk about how he wanted to create a way for people to experience Detroit in a positive light and for the community to reconnect. He then goes on to explain how his iPad is essential and how he and his fellow organizers use it for everything. A whole other blog could be written about how underfunded community organizing is and how many people are working with broken printers, in cluttered offices, lack wifi, and still make amazing things happen with few resources. I’m just going to focus on how Apple left out how vital person to person relationships were to making the Slow Roll so successful. Every time you see Mr. Hall interacting with people he has his iPad out. I know as a community organizer, that his iPad wouldn’t be helpful if he hadn’t built lasting relationships with people by doing face to face organizing. The type of good old-fashioned- just-walking-up-to-someone organizing that means asking if they want to come ride a bike and do something positive. Without the personal relationships the bike ride might have had a couple hundred people (or five people) show up through some social media outreach, but you can’t get 2,000 smiling people to rides bikes every week with Facebook and Twitter alone. Apple has positioned itself as the organizing and left out the community, which is not cool, or accurate.
Companies like Apple might provide some tools that make our work easier but they are not the reason why community comes together. Twitter did not start a revolution in Egypt, people did. YouTube doesn’t create space for young LGBTQ youth to share their stories, people made it a platform. Technology doesn’t tell the story. People tell the story. An iPad doesn’t create the movement. People build the movement.
By Alanna Offield, Media Literacy Project Campaign Coordinator