The Cult Of Gadget Destruction Porn

What's the Deal With Gadget Destruction Porn?

At the heart of all gadget porn -- those salacious, multi-angle slow mo shots of smartphones, tablets and smartwatches -- lies a strange dichotomy, one of both creation and destruction.

We've all seen the former, watching some tech exec talk about "innovation" and "inspired design", these hubristic presentations that then ubiquitously cut to the 90-second gadget reveal video, which are all eerily similar: insanely close angles, painfully slow pans, metal and gold everywhere, some piano and stuff, and outer space themes for some reason. It's a form of consumer worship that consistently whips many gadget bloggers to use words like "sexy" and "lust", all followed by photos documenting every inch in as many stunning pixels as possible.

But then, there's another side of it all, a darker side -- a kind of confluence of reactionary defiance to gross capitalism and simple "let's blow shit up" entertainment. Within the days, weeks, months following any mega big hardware release, YouTube becomes flooded with copious inventive ways to destroy the internet's collective object of desire.

Why?? We can take a clue from the biggest cultural participation in gadget destruction: the violent dismantling of a busted-arse printer in 1999's Office Space. It's funny, yeah, but it's also hard to deny the level of catharsis felt by the characters and audience alike as one of the film's constant annoyances is obliterated in a moment of plastic and silicon confetti.

Since then, the way we destroy technology has only become more prevalent and complex -- while still delivering that satisfying dose of dopamine to your brain. The absolute best example is the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. In the months following Apple's latest iPhone release, this little guy has been through every imaginable hell, including water submersion, 50-calibre rifles, liquid nitrogen, knives and hammers, microwaves, blenders, blow torches, thermite, Molotov cocktails, power drills, turkeys, Tasers, lava lamps, bow and arrows, outer space, and my personal favourite, a tank.

The only thing these videos have in common, besides the target of impending destruction, is that every one has views that number in the millions. These also aren't shaky cam productions. Many of them, like Wired's Battle Damage video series, are actually highly produced and offer the same kind of slow mo ooohhh yeeeaaahhh moments. The same highly produced slow mo techniques tech companies use to hawk their hardware.

What's the Deal With Gadget Destruction Porn?
What's the Deal With Gadget Destruction Porn?

But the idea that so many people revel, retweet and watch iPhones be completely obliterated speaks to some kind of perverse undercurrent. I mean think about it. The iPhone 6, and any other smartphone for that matter, is the absolute culmination of the human technological endeavour. Fifty years ago, engineers from IBM, Hewlett-Packard, NASA, and DARPA toiled away to create powerful machines that filled entire rooms and and sent humans into space. That is now all in the power of your hand -- and is even better! And we're destroying it in any way imaginable.

But I suspect it's less sinister than just wanting to watch the world burn. More like a defiance of dependence; these personal pocket computers are so ingrained in our everyday life that people actually experience physical and emotional withdrawal when they don't have their smartphone nearby. We resent that. And we fuck shit up.

Or the answer could be just entertainment -- it is the only reason Michael Bay has a job after all. But that description seems overly simplistic. The fetishism of our everyday tech lives on two extremes -- of worship and annihilation -- and we're all willing participants.