The Jesus factor of the iPhone

How the iPhone became divine: new media, religion and the intertextual circulation of meaning

From New  Media & Society

The labeling of the iPhone as the ‘Jesus phone’ illustrates how new media objects can possess multiple layers of meaning, which can shape how they are perceived by the public. This study explores the relationship between religious language, imagery and technology. In advance of its launch in 2007 bloggers had branded the forthcoming device not only as a revolutionary technology, but as a technological savior by combining the power of an iPod, cellphone and PDA. The iPhone was being referred to as the ‘Jesus phone’ online ‘the holy grail of all gadgets’. Media embraced the religious language and imagery, and eventually Apple’s iPhone media campaign incorporated this mystical aura into its ads, subtly appropriating the divine imagery for its own benefit. The study suggests a need to test the extent to which religious metaphors have sticking power.

Abstract

This article explores the labeling of the iPhone as the ‘Jesus phone’ in order to demonstrate how religious metaphors and myth can be appropriated into popular discourse and shape the reception of a technology. We consider the intertextual nature of the relationship between religious language, imagery and technology and demonstrate how this creates a unique interaction between technology fans and bloggers, news media and even corporate advertising. Our analysis of the ‘Jesus phone’ clarifies how different groups may appropriate the language and imagery of another to communicate very different meanings and intentions. Intertextuality serves as a framework to unpack the deployment of religion to frame technology and meanings communicated. We also reflect on how religious language may communicate both positive and negative aspects of a technology and instigate an unintentional trajectory in popular discourse as it is employed by different audiences, both online and offline.

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Article details

Campbell, H., & La Pastina, A. (2010). How the iPhone became divine: new media, religion and the intertextual circulation of meaning New Media & Society, 12 (7), 1191-1207 DOI: 10.1177/1461444810362204

     
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