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My iPod, My iCon: How and Why Do Images Become Icons?

TitleMy iPod, My iCon: How and Why Do Images Become Icons?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsJenkins, E
JournalCritical Studies in Media Communication
Date PublishedDecember 2008
KeywordsCult Value, Icons, Ipod, Symbolic Realism, Visual Rhetoric

This paper engages the cultic following of Apple computer through an examination of their brand image, here represented by the famous iPod silhouette commercials. I argue that Apple employs the techniques of the Orthodox icon, constructing a mode of seeing known as symbolical realism. This mode cues the reader to see with their divine eye, recognizing neither a realistic portrayal of an actual event nor a symbolic representation. Instead, the viewer sees the advertisements as a hypostasis of the immersion in music. This mode of seeing deflects attention from Apple's ideological gain and invites viewer participation in a cult celebrating the immersive experience. In short, the ads construct a visual enthymeme whose missing element is the user. By participating in the ritual of seeing through symbolic realism and thereby completing the enthymeme, the iPod is transformed into my iCon, bestowing the commodity, and by extension the corporation, with cult value.