Intermission: What Lies Beneath your favourite device…

I never really imagined I’d be a “content generator” for proprietary devices. But the ubiquity of the Apple iPhone in “normal” society has, to a large extent, made this whole What Lies Beneath project possible. Without widespread distribution of the device to play these experimental sound works conveniently in your own bedroom, I would have had to organise this project differently.

When I visited my technophobic Nana at Easter, she was having a cuppa with her technophilic 80 year old friend (a recent iProduct devotee). The friend asked – with some sense of wonder – “How did I ever get by without it?”

The question “Have you got an iPhone”… reminds me of the now somewhat obselete substitution of “Hoover” for vacuum cleaner – where the brand name stands in for the whole general category.

So it was with some interest and horror that I came across an article (in MX newspaper of all places) which reveals that Apple’s various iProducts are so popular that the demand has created a deadly ripple effect thousands of miles from home.

You may remember the launch of the iPhone 4, where people queued en mass to buy one ASAP in major western cities all around the world. Here’s a particularly beautiful photograph of such a queue, zigzagging through a large enclosed mall in London, taken by photographer Richard Forward:

iphone queue photo by richard forward

But it seems that this kind of demand has placed so much stress on factory workers in China that the workers cannot cope with the pressure, and have been committing suicide:

iphone suicide article mx newspaper

Follow this link for a more thorough consideration of the issue.

5 Responses

  1. 14 suicides out of 500,000 employees is in fact lower than the suicide rate of the general population (33 per 500,000, according to Wikipedia).

    /Apple apologist

  2. Ooh, good research Greg. Love a bit of debunking.

    But… What then to make of this? That all that overtime is actually good for you?

  3. I think Apple need to be held accountable for the labour practices they exploit for the super profits they gain. But since I typed that last sentence on a MacBrook Pro it means that I also need to be held accountable. Because I am Apple. Because my life is literally lived through my MacBook Pro. It is like my parasitic twin. I could undertake an operation to have the parasite removed, and I would survive the procedure, but having grown so accustomed to its presence I begin to feel it is part of me, and I it. Actually, I sometimes have the feeling that I am the operator thing which allows it to be a living creature. In terms of the parasite, I’m not sure who is hosting who. So if I were to apologise for Apple it would be apologising for myself. We would then apologise for our collective libido.

    It’s our libido and it’s lust for the prosthetic life we live that drives the collective demand that translates into 450,000 workers at the Foxconn City in Shenzhen doing 60 hour weeks, and working 12 out of 13 days in a row. The question of suicide at Shenzhen is not about comparative rates, it is a question of 14 suicides coming directly from labour practices at Foxconn. I’d like to know precisely what we mean by “general population”, but I’m going to guess that the 33 other hypothetical suicides do not have the same direct cause. Mostly because a city of 450,000 people is not generally a single company’s workplace. Foxxconn city is a 3km square live-in factory that houses nearly twice the population of Wollongong.

  4. Update: this article entitled “Xbox workers threaten mass suicide” (11 January 2012) shows that this Chinese work conditions problem is by no means restricted to Apple.

Comments are closed.