Every culture has its totemic objects that define and reify what people believe to be valuable and important. Nothing is more totemic, of course, than the tablets that Moses brought down from the mountain that contained the Ten Commandments. The tablets structured society and life. They were an ordering device that embodied the top-down, hierarchical movement of message and information of the day.
We may be about to experience something similar in modern culture. Envision, if you will, a secular Moses in the guise of Steve Jobs, bringing a high tech Tablet out that defines and reifies our modern day culture. This Tablet is an enabling device that embodies the flat, social, interactive, co-creative movement of message and information of today. It enables us to order ourselves.
Roland Barthes, in his Mythologies, talks about totemic objects. To the French, wine is a totemic drink that embodies their culture and has non-rational, almost magical elements to it. It may very well be that the Tablet is a totemic object for the US, especially for the Gen Y generation, embodying its practices and hopes, expressing it’s core values.
I believe that innovations that succeed usually embrace ritual, whether intended or not. That ritual may be traditional or contemporary but ritual, it is.
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