Apple iPhone and iPad Marketplace Censorship, Taking Sex out of Sexy Tech

I believe that Apple has lost their damn minds regarding their arbitrary approval of adult themed apps in the iTunes App Store. When the app store first opened, Apple rejected adult oriented apps (I will not attempt to define what this means, but suffice to say that this is an arbitrary category assignment for particular iPhone apps with the intent to ‘protect the children’–I will refer readers to Lee Edelman’s work, No Future, for more on this categorical thematic), because they had no way at that time to restrict the purchase of age restricted apps. Then, Apple developed a way to categorize and restrict particular apps from being purchased with parental age controls. Now, Apple has backtracked and begun the obliteration of apps with breasts, butts, and tight clothing. Why would Apple reverse course from being progressively minded about the types of apps available? Why would they turn away from the fact that adults buy and use their hardware and buy third party software of all sorts to be used and enjoyed on their products? As reported in the New York Times, Phil Schiller at Apple is quoted as saying:

“It came to the point where we were getting customer complaints from women who found the content getting too degrading and objectionable, as well as parents who were upset with what their kids were able to see.”

Who are these women and why do they determine what other people should or shouldn’t do on their, um, hardware? How are kids seeing these restricted apps on their iPod Touch or iPhone when their folks should implement content age restrictions and not give their kids the damn credit card number?

I agree with Violet Blue that this is an unfortunate turn of events for a company that we both love. Most importantly, she observes here that:

Now that Apple has released the iPad — and importantly, it does not have the cat-flavored Apple OS we know and love — with the iPhone operating system on what is intended to be a reader and tablet computer, it means that Apple has now produced a computer with a very closed system indeed. And a closed *minded* one.

Apple, closed minded? Aren’t they supposed to be guys who think different, or was that only a limited time deal when Steve Jobs first returned to Apple to deliver the company from the technological dust heap? Where is the insanely great opportunities of recognizing the differences between children and adults, and the different ways these two groups do and should (depending on who you ask) use technology? Apple’s draconian and antiquated approach to controlling the marketplace microcosm of the iPhone/iPad app store reveals that they are not only closed minded, but they are also giving into a un-Apple conservative mindset that reinforces Victorian-derived heteronormativity by their reinscription of what is and what is not appropriate for adults to see, and in this case, touch (at least virtually). Apple is, unfortunately, taking the sex out of sexy tech.

More on the app removals, extent of the removals, and responses from axed developers here, here, and here. Not to mention the hypocrisy of keeping the Playboy and Sports Illustrated apps in the iTunes store as detailed here.

I am a professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on 20th/21st-century American culture, science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology.

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Who is Dynamic Subspace?

Dr. Jason W. Ellis shares his interdisciplinary research and pedagogy on DynamicSubspace.net. Its focus includes the exploration of science, technology, and cultural issues through science fiction and neuroscientific approaches. It includes vintage computing, LEGO, and other wonderful things, too.

He is an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY (City Tech) where he teaches college writing, technical communication, and science fiction.

He holds a Ph.D. in English from Kent State University, M.A. in Science Fiction Studies from the University of Liverpool, and B.S. in Science, Technology, and Culture from Georgia Tech.

He welcomes questions, comments, and inquiries for collaboration via email at jellis at citytech dot cuny dot edu or Twitter @dynamicsubspace.

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