The desire to queue and the queue for desire – returning to the iPhone queues.

Queue for iPhone 4 in Liverpool, photo by Flickr user: newtc_uk

Queue for iPhone 4 in Liverpool, photo by Flickr user: newtc_uk

Today sees the launch of the Apple iPhone 4. As we have come to expect, there are/were queues snaking from the doors of the fruit-themed purveyor of techno-chic’s shops. Indeed, as Wired UK, have pointed out – people turn up and camp overnight to be in the queue. Two years ago, in sunny Palo Alto, California, I observed with fascination the concretisation of a trend – the cultural event of queuing for the new Apple [insert shiny new product here]. At that time it was the release of the iPhone 3G:

The release of a hotly anticipated product, especially one created by apple, now seems to provoke a trend: the hardcore turn up one or more days in advance and camp (literally) outside the shop, others arrive at dawn and join the throng. Media coverage ensues and many wonder what on earth the fuss is about. In conversation with other spectators and with some of those who have queued, it seems to me that the purchase of the device itself is only a part of the motivation – it is also, substantially, about being a part of an event. The experience of queuing for these prized item, and the stories one might attach, appears to have become culturally significant.

Today is no different. The phenomena of the queue remains and it seems it has, if anything, grown into the production of events that appear to hold some sort of cultural significance for a significant minority of the population. As Gene Becker tweeted:

So all the cool kids are standing in line today, it seems. How retro-charming. iPhones are the new Grateful Dead tickets?

Why do I blog this? Its interesting to observe how material things, ostensibly created as ‘tools’, can be invested with so much desire and enchantment that their cultural value becomes tied to a sense of anticipation. What’s the significance of these events? Will people continue to queue for future techno-baubles? I haven’t decided if I need answers to those questions…

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