The Cultural Integration of the iPhone with Social Life

Estefanía Tocado

According to Lev Manovich, “cultural software” refers to certain types of software that support actions we normally associate with “culture” (21).  Some of these actions are accessing, appending, sharing, and remixing artifacts online such as watching a video or posting comments on a blog as well as communicating with other people (23).  An iPhone provides these actions to any user who directly has access to this cultural software anytime and anywhere.  As Manovich states, all media has been liberated from its physical storage, the cinema, and the word interface to freely mix in the virtual reality (The Language 83).  It is interesting to point out, as Bolter and Grusin affirm, that when one medium is represented in another it is called remediation (45).  The act of remediation in a smart phone is making available many of the features that a user would have in a PC in a lighter, portable, and accessible with one hand device.

Despite giving us the illusion of being of transparent immediacy, that is to say that the virtual reality is immersive and therefore the medium is meant to disappear and be “interfaceless,” the iPhone is very much a hypermediated device.  Although the buttons are tactile and Siri provides voice activation and data searching on the web, the user still has the need to work with menus and categories to obtain information.  As the union between image and the word, the iPhone represents one of the latest implementations of the marriage between TV and computer technologies in a most accessible and portable way (Bolter and Grusin 31).  The promotion to access multiple ways of communication, such as facebook or twitter, at any time and the integration of the iPhone in our everyday life create the illusion of continuous unmediated access to the virtual world.  As Frederic Jameson would say, it would support the idea of living in a “perpetual present” in which there is not a clear borderline between the real space and time to that on the web.  Another interesting factor is the bodily incorporation of the iPhone.


For many of us it is quite common to walk around campus holding our phone while texting, emailing, or chatting with friends on the web.  It could be argued that it is a cyborgian extension of our hand and arm which provides a physical medium, that of the material iPhone itself, but moreover it seems to be very much a bodily device that has been incorporated as well as socially and culturally merged and accepted.  According to Bolter and Grussin, the logic of hypermediacy expresses the tension regarding the visual space mediated and as a “real” space that lies beyond mediation.  However, as they also assert, present technology does not search for transparency any longer because it is not felt as necessary or subtracting from the authentic and “real” (I would call it “hyperreal” in Baudrillard´s terms) experience (41).  Therefore, the integration of the iPhone and other related devices such as tablets have been culturally socialized to be an integral part of our everyday life, erasing the boundaries between the real and the virtual worlds.


Works Cited

Bolter Jay David and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000.

Manovich, Leo. Softare Takes Command. NY: Bloomsbury, 2013.

—. The Language of New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001.