Dun­can Bell is wrapped in plas­tic

Australian T3 - - OPINION -

“There are as­pects of fetishism, but there is also in­hu­man pre­ci­sion and spir­i­tual de­vo­tion”

Open­ing a new gadget is a very 21st cen­tury ex­pres­sion of sex­ual de­sire. As mil­len­ni­als turn their backs on bonk­ing, to spend more time with their av­o­ca­dos, in­duct­ing a new bit of tech is fill­ing the hole that leaves. You don’t agree? Con­sider this...

When you buy a new bit of tech, the box is swad­dled in shrink wrap, stretched taut across its body. Ev­ery­thing is vis­i­ble, yet pro­phy­lac­ti­cally cov­ered. With fum­bling hands you must ease your way through, then tear it off. Inked text and lo­gos hint at the ex­cite­ment within, like the neon signs on dis­rep­utable bars of yore.

Prise off the lid and what you de­sire is fi­nally vis­i­ble. The next layer of plas­tique is not trans­par­ent but translu­cent – some­times near opaque. Rather than be­ing sealed tightly like the outer lay­ers, this is sug­ges­tively loose, held to­gether by eas­ily found tabs. This must be care­fully, lov­ingly peeled back.

Be­neath, the soft plas­tic, the vul­ner­a­ble glass and the hard, un­yield­ing metal of the gadget’s con­struc­tion seem to yearn for your touch. Fi­nally, on the most sen­si­tive area, the screen, there is one fi­nal sheet of plas­tic. You peel it back. Now, at last, you can gaze upon its true face, and let your fin­gers work their magic, bring­ing it to life.

You get the sub­tle sub­text of what I’m get­ting at here, right? Come on, we all know why peo­ple love un­box­ing videos…

I need a shower af­ter that

Not sur­pris­ingly, it was an Ap­ple prod­uct that re­cently made me have all these rather fever­ish thoughts about plas­tic. The Se­ries 3 Ap­ple Watch, which I bought as a present, is per­haps the most well wrapped de­vice of all time.

First up, the watch comes in a shrink-wrapped box that even the shop as­sis­tant at the Ap­ple Store de­scribed as “over-sized”. Hon­estly, it’s about the size of one of those mas­sive packs of cig­a­rettes you can buy in duty-free shops, or lug­gage for a rab­bit. Then the in­ner pack­ag­ing is plas­tic on top of card on top of plas­tic. Even the straps, which are

en­tirely made of plas­tic, come wrapped in in­di­vid­ual bits of more di­aphanous plas­tic.

I’ve played up the sexy el­e­ment of un­wrap­ping tech here be­cause that’s the way my mind works, but it is, of course, much more com­plex than that.

There are as­pects of fetishism but there is also in­hu­man pre­ci­sion, spir­i­tual de­vo­tion and, more pro­saically, pro­tec­tion and preser­va­tion of the new tech as it moves up the sup­ply chain from fac­tory to the clammy em­brace of your sweaty hands.

With the Ap­ple Watch, for in­stance, the vac­uum-formed in­ner tray is like a per­fect tech bento box, fussed and thought over to the nth de­gree by Jony Ive and his monk­ish acolytes. The way Ap­ple has taken some of the tropes of lux­ury watch pack­ag­ing, but ap­plied them to a more ex­plic­itly ‘tech’ prod­uct, is also clever if you’re in the know. How­ever, how long can this level of pack­ag­ing ex­cess con­tinue?

Given how up­set peo­ple now get about plas­tic drink­ing straws and sin­gle-use shop­ping bags, it seems in­evitable that there will be a back­lash against this school of pack­ag­ing. It’s so beau­ti­ful, so OTT, so per­fectly plas­tic and... So ab­so­lutely des­tined to be im­me­di­ately sent to land­fill.

I’m not pick­ing on Ap­ple in par­tic­u­lar here. I’m aware that, in re­cent years, the com­pany has worked hard to re­duce the amount of plas­tic it uses in its pack­ag­ing, and that much of what it uses is ac­tu­ally re­cy­cled (though this is prob­lem­atic in it­self as re­cy­cled plas­tic has usu­ally reached the last of its nine lives) or is re­cy­clable. Prob­a­bly other brands have too.

Even so, re­al­is­ti­cally, our pre­cious tech must surely all start coming to us in cor­ru­gated card­board and ugly pseu­do­plas­tics based on starch. That’s prob­a­bly great for the planet, but I ad­mit I will miss this era of per­fect icons of glass and steel, im­pec­ca­bly dressed in sexy, sexy plas­tic.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.