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Class signaling via Apple products

"A Macbook Pro is just as much of a status marker as a Louis Vuitton purse or a BMW."

I recoil at the notion because I think Vuitton purses and BMWs signal a different class than ones I identify with. (At least I tend to have prejudices about people who have those things—I'll assume "not like me" unless I get evidence to the contrary.) But I do think that, in California at least, there's a class I might call "hi-tech professionals" and having Mac products can signal identification with it.

FWIW, I think I'm kind of clueless about class.

Anyway, it's interesting to contemplate. What do you think?

This entry was originally posted at http://firecat.dreamwidth.org/771222.html, where there are comment count unavailable comments.

Comments

( 44 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
firecat
Apr. 18th, 2012 09:04 pm (UTC)
You would seem to have a pretty good reason to use a MacBook Pro on the job, yeah.
okoshun
Apr. 18th, 2012 09:06 pm (UTC)
I could see how this could partially be seen as the case as the price point to get into even a basic Mac is much higher than that of a generic PC system. I can buy a new PC laptop for $250. I'd never be able to get close to that amount for a Mac..unless it's an ancient hand-me-down.
firecat
Apr. 18th, 2012 09:33 pm (UTC)
Yep, the cheapest Apple laptop is $1000 new.
(no subject) - moominmuppet - Apr. 20th, 2012 01:47 am (UTC) - Expand
tiger_spot
Apr. 18th, 2012 09:24 pm (UTC)
I think it's absolutely a marker of class, although not of exactly the same class. Maybe a class-associated subculture?

And I agree with the article's mention that there are other reasons to buy (certain) Apple products; the class signaling is not necessarily the reason someone has made a particular purchase, but it can still be a side effect. I tend to be more attuned to signaling as a side effect, because I don't do much of it deliberately but boy is there a cumulative effect.
firecat
Apr. 18th, 2012 09:36 pm (UTC)
the class signaling is not necessarily the reason someone has made a particular purchase, but it can still be a side effect.

Yeah, very true.

I wonder who acknowledges that they bought something as a status symbol.
(no subject) - elisem - Apr. 18th, 2012 09:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Apr. 18th, 2012 10:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tiger_spot - Apr. 19th, 2012 12:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - graymalkin13 - Apr. 19th, 2012 01:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tiger_spot - Apr. 19th, 2012 06:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - graymalkin13 - Apr. 19th, 2012 08:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Apr. 19th, 2012 02:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tiger_spot - Apr. 19th, 2012 06:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - graymalkin13 - Apr. 19th, 2012 01:41 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Apr. 19th, 2012 02:25 am (UTC) - Expand
wcg
Apr. 18th, 2012 10:31 pm (UTC)
The flip side of this is that there's a certain group of people who will, upon seeing someone enter a meeting carrying a Mac laptop, roll their eyes and write that person off as out of touch.
graymalkin13
Apr. 19th, 2012 01:52 am (UTC)
HEE!!

- Apple employee for 15 years, though not recently...
ailbhe
Apr. 18th, 2012 10:42 pm (UTC)
There's a difference between status *marker* and status *symbol.* A marker could have other purposes as well.
tiger_spot
Apr. 19th, 2012 12:08 am (UTC)
Is there anything that doesn't have other purposes? A bag has other purposes: you carry things in it and perhaps it's an accessory to your outfit. A car has other purposes: you get from place to place, maybe it has good gas mileage (e.g. Prius, which I keep seeing referred to as a status thing in a dismissive sort of way) or it's really comfortable or whatever. Art has other purposes: you like looking at it or it's an investment or it goes with the couch and the wall looked boring. Charitable donations, even the kind where your name goes on a brick or a building, have other purposes. Conspicuous food consumption (truffles or pate or really fancy cheese or expensive wine) presumably tastes good, or at least interesting.

I mean, there's a point where you can look at any of those things and say that the cost per marginal value is so high that you must be looking at spending for the sake of spending, rather than at what the person's decision would be if all of the available options cost the same, but I don't know that that's an objectively determinable point.

I feel weirdly like I'm defending the existence of high-end luxury goods. This is strange because I don't, as a rule, like high-end luxury goods (except for some art, and some furniture). YKIOK, IJNMK?
(no subject) - graymalkin13 - Apr. 19th, 2012 02:01 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Apr. 19th, 2012 02:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dr_brat - Apr. 19th, 2012 03:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Apr. 19th, 2012 06:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Apr. 19th, 2012 02:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - graymalkin13 - Apr. 19th, 2012 03:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Apr. 19th, 2012 04:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - graymalkin13 - Apr. 19th, 2012 09:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Apr. 19th, 2012 06:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - graymalkin13 - Apr. 19th, 2012 08:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Apr. 19th, 2012 09:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - graymalkin13 - Apr. 19th, 2012 09:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bibliofile - Apr. 20th, 2012 10:17 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - ailbhe - Apr. 19th, 2012 07:27 am (UTC) - Expand
bunnybutt
Apr. 19th, 2012 02:24 am (UTC)
Huh. Well, I have a mac laptop because I won't have anything in my house that I can't support myself, and I stopped trying to troubleshoot windows even before I went to work at Infinite Circle. For a long time I felt the pricepoint was misleading, as the initial cost was higher, but support costs were minimal. Of course, I found that was also true of cars - the lifecycle cost of my volvo turned out to be lower than that of the saturn it replaced. I stopped thinking that about apple when they revised their policies on backwards compatibility, but I still use them because I can support them start to finish on my own.
firecat
Apr. 19th, 2012 02:38 am (UTC)
Those are some of the reasons I have Apple things, plus I've had them since 1984 and I'm used to them. But I did get an Android phone instead of an iPhone because I can't imagine paying $80 for cell phone service. (I wonder what it says about me that I don't mind paying for gadgets but I do mind paying high monthly service fees.)
epi_lj
Apr. 19th, 2012 03:14 pm (UTC)
You've had some good responses so far, but I think it's worth looking at the cost difference between a functional other-brand laptop with comparable features. It's my impression that it's something like "BMW" but nowhere near "Louis Vuitton purse" -- that is to say, that a Mac laptop might cost 50% more than a similarly-specified non-Mac laptop, and that a BMW might have something like that markup (although it might be harder to find a direct comparable), but that a Louis Vuitton purse could be at least one order of magnitude more expensive than a similarly-capable purse.

It's also worth recognizing that a lot of people who use Macs do so because "comparable" PCs either don't handle the tasks they do as well, or because the tools they use and have already invested in only exist for the Mac. Then there are workplaces that supply them for a wide variety of reasons. I'm not sure if something can function as a good class identifier if you have a mixture of people who buy them for various different reasons, some of which might be necessity.
firecat
Apr. 19th, 2012 06:26 pm (UTC)
Those are very good points.
baratron
Apr. 20th, 2012 07:39 am (UTC)
My MacBook Pro was bought for me by the British Government, via Disabled Student's Allowance. Yes, it's a status symbol - that I'm officially ill enough to need a high-powered graphics machine running Unix at home in order to do my coursework ;)
xiphias
Apr. 20th, 2012 04:06 pm (UTC)
A "status marker" isn't something that's tied to any particular status. Torn jeans are a status marker. Stained t-shirts with funny statements about cats are status markers. T-shirts with the names of science fiction conventions, rock bands, sports teams, brands of beer, webcomics are status markers.

A Macbook Pro is a status marker. That doesn't mean that it's not often also the right tool for the job -- but it's a marker that you have a job or life such that a Macbook Pro is the right tool for you.

A Ford F350 is a status symbol, and is often the right tool for the job, and thereby sends the message that your job is one for which a Ford F350 is the right tool.

Very few status symbols are purely status symbols. The ones that are actually good status symbols are that way because they're good at exemplifying some thing about the status they're symbolizing.
abostick59
Apr. 21st, 2012 04:57 pm (UTC)
I daresay that the MacBook Pro is most likely of the three to be bought for one by someone else as part of the tools they need for their job.

There are jobs which might provide the holder with a BMW, but that says something about the sort of person the employer is seeking to hire.

I am having trouble imagining the job for which an employer needs to buy the employee a Louis Vuitton bag. Unless perhaps the job is "spy."
micheinnz
Apr. 30th, 2012 08:59 am (UTC)
Yeah, bunch of bollocks. I'll have to tell all the students I work with that have them, that it's just a status symbol toy and not a real computer.

Oh, wait.
( 44 comments — Leave a comment )

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