In Tom Gunning’s article “Re-Newing Old Technologies,” he discusses how as new technologies start to age, they begin to fall victim to familiarization and in turn move from “spectacular and astonishing to convenient and unremarkable” (Gunning 39). He references John Onian’s essay to explain the cognitive cycle that occurs with new technology: (1) a person has a striking, or uncanny, experience; (2) a brief physical paralysis occurs; (3) the person learns about the new technology leading to new mental reactions, which will in turn create (4) a new action being familiarized (Gunning 41).
Gunning believes that we as humans quickly lose the astonishment of new technologies. This could partially be due to the fact that truly new technology is hard to come by in this day and age where there are less inventions and more innovations. In the past couple decades there hasn’t been much that changed the world as inventions did throughout the 1900’s, but rather, we live in a world of iterations––a world where we increment numbers and add a few features to call something “new” instead of making a new product entirely. However, he says that we should pay more attention to the origins of any new technology as it begins to age and be more cognizant of the history that it went through.
Apple’s iOS App Store is a technological advancement that made it to Onian’s fourth stage of wonder very quickly and has remained there ever since. Originally released on July 10th, 2008, it was truly something uncanny––completely new to the people that used it. Till this point, some devices had “app stores,” but they were expensive to use and lacked in features. Apple’s was completely different. Not only could anyone put content on it, but most of it was free, leading Computer World to say “Apple has already profoundly changed the technology landscape again” and “2008 will be known for one thing…” The free button in the App Store (as shown on the attached poster) was a stark difference compared to any other software distribution platform in existence. Shortly after the opening of the App Store, most users had quickly learned about the new technology (Onian’s step 3) and were using it in their every day lives (step 4) (Gunning 41). Because of this, the discourse surrounding the App Store has profoundly changed.
“Apple’s App Store Bigger
Than Hollywood Box Office”
Today, if you search for the App Store online, its wonder and astonishment has worn off. People have become familiarized with the process of downloading new apps and the phrase “let me find an app for that” has lost its luster. Headlines now fill the web such as “Apple’s App Store Bigger Than Hollywood Box Office” announcing that “Apple posted the largest quarterly profit of any company in history”(Stone). Familiarization is here. There is nothing intrinsically new or uncanny about using the App Store anymore, as displayed by the massive earnings they report––everyone is doing it. This familiarization is what Gunning was referring to when he called for his readers to take a step back from their daily lives and ask themselves what technologies were like when users first experienced them, and how have they changed from then to now.
Gunning, Tom. “Chapter 4: Re-Newing Old Technologies: Astonishment, Second Nature, and the Uncanny in Technology from the Previous Turn-of-the-Century.” Rethinking Media Change The Aesthetics of Transition. Ed. David Thorburn and Henry Jenkins. Cambridge: MIT, 2009. 39-59. Print.
Reisinger, Don. “Why the App Store Is the Key to the IPhone’s Success.” Mashable. 11 Aug. 2008. Web. 1 Feb. 2015. <http://mashable.com/2008/08/11/app-store-is-the-key-to-iphones-success/ > .
Stone, Amey. “Apple’s App Store Bigger Than Hollywood Box Office.” The Fiscal Times. 28 Jan. 2015. Web. 1 Feb. 2015. <http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2015/01/28/Apple-s-App-Store-Bigger-Hollywood-Box-Office/ > .
Weintraub, Seth. “Apple’s Biggest Innovation for 2008? The IPhone App Store.” Computerworld. 7 Aug. 2008. Web. 1 Feb. 2015. <http://www.computerworld.com/article/2478691/smartphones/apple-s-biggest-innovation-for-2008—the-iphone-app-store.html/ > .