Tuesday, 13 April 2010

On the repackaging of technological objects (or not)

new laptop case - zips

This is my new laptop case. The design features the "TG12345 Mk II recording desk" from London's famous Abbey Road studios. You can read a bit about that mixing desk, and buy your own laptop case (or notebook, t-shirt...) here.

It was a birthday present from my mother. It reminds us both of my father, a professional musician who spent a lot of his life working at those studios. Most people hear "Abbey Road" and think Beatles; I think "Ah, Dad's got sessions this week, he'll be wandering around the house distracted, loosing his glasses, making endless cups of tea, muttering about percussionists and swearing at his piano at 2am...". My brother did loads of work experience there as a teenager and, or at least so he says, met Paul McCartney. Apparently I spent a fair bit of time there as a baby too, quietly sleeping in the corner of the studio (I must have been an unusually quiet baby).

Personal connections aside, I think this laptop case is interesting object. It's a desirable consumer product, at least for those of a certain aesthetic. I'm very much looking forward to showing it off at the British Library. I think it's fascinating that what is, in many ways, a technical object designed for utilitarian purpose has been repackaged purely for its image. I think this is interesting. Also, it's a relatively "retro" piece of technology. These desks were used between 1975 and 1985, somewhat before the emergence of the laptop case as a consumer product. So it signals technology and geekiness, whilst at the same time reflecting a form of nostalgia. Technostalgia perhaps.

I've blogged elsewhere about some of these issues before, inspired by some children's t-shirts which recycled old cover art from Popular Mechanics. Now, I could bang on about the everyday anachronism of postmodern technological media consumption. Clothing remade from cassette tapes, or our delight in old internet sites, for example. I could also return to the personal connection and use it to make a point about the personal relationships we all have to technological objects. I don't name my laptop, phone, ipod, bicycle, etc, but I know a fair number of people who do. Or, there's that odd disconnection between the public cultural associations of Abbey road compared to my more individual domestic one: ripe for a bit of structuration theory. Or perhaps, in honor of Susan Leigh Star who died recently, I might reflect on the ways in which single objects may have multiple meanings for multiple peoples; this multiplicitous nature allowing them to be sites for both the making and unmaking of boundaries. Cultural theorists of technology do love an artefactual case study. And er, emphasising plurality and words like multiplicitous.

But I won't drone on about all that. It's my birthday and although I've worked a chunk of it already, right now I'm going to zip-up all my sociological citations firmly inside this laptop case and potter down to the pub for lunch (a pub with its own history of technology associations, but a pub nonetheless).

new laptop case - sliders


  1. Your laptop case indeed makes me nostalgic. I did work experience in a recording studio and now long for analogue tape and desks so big you had to stand up to reach the gain knob. All the features and many more are now replicated in the middling PC I've got with the addition of a good sound interface (I love my Tascam US-1641), but it never quite feels real.

    Also, Happy Birthday! I'll bake a cake when I'm coming round for dinner.


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