Putting a human touch in technology

Written on 29 August, 2008 by Netregistry
Categories Social Media Tags social media

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It’s iPhone Girl, invading your Apple mobile.

A Chinese factory line worker in the Shenzhen-based Apple assembly plant has put a human touch back in technology, and become an internet celebrity. The girl, dubbed “China’s prettiest factory girl,” by China’s Southern Metropolitan Daily newspaper, took photos of herself in the factory making peace signs on an iPhone she assembled.

The iPhone was purchased in Britain by a Kingston-upon-Hull resident and Apple customer, Mark. He posted in an internet forum that his phone had the pictures saved when he first activated it. The pictures display the girl, wearing a pink and white striped uniform, beaming from behind the production line. Some say the pictures are taken to test each iPhone and someone simply forgot to delete them, but I’d like to think they were taken by cheeky factory workers making their mark on the multi-billion dollar corporation in the only way they could.

In 2006, a story surfaced claiming that the workers in the same Foxconn Apple factory only earned $57.00AUD per month and were forced to live in 100-per room dormitories on site with a bucket to wash their uniforms. Could the smiling iPhone-maker have been paid or persuaded to perform the stunt, in a PR bid for good publicity? Given that iPhones are used by technologically-advanced high-use internet consumers, it would have been inevitable that the pictures would be posted online.

I prefer to think that the smile was genuine. It seems to be, it looks like her grin is coming from the heart – and probably fuelled by adrenaline for being a bit naughty on the job. Foxconn responded to the incident by claiming that it was “just a beautiful mistake”.

The girl, whose identity has not been revealed, is apparently quite distressed by the publicity. “She’s just a young girl who has come to the city from her remote hometown. She’s never been in such a situation. She’s really scared by the media,” said a spokesperson for the Foxconn factory. “She told me she wanted to quit her job and go back home to get away from this. We let her off work today so she could rest.”

Apple does claim to be more humanised than PC, with their advertisements representing the brand with a hip young actor rather than the machines themselves. I would love to turn on a brand new computer, iPhone or iPod to find a picture of the person who put the product together. Maybe they could leave me their email address so I could send them a thank you note, and respond with a picture of myself. Maybe I could gift a couple of my favourite songs to them via iTunes, or send them a picture of my house and dog. I’m sure the Chinese factory workers would love to have their days spices up by a bit more interaction with the world at large, especially given the tight constraints on their internet access.

Technology so often takes people away from each other in its efforts to make it easier to reach our friends and family: would you catch up with your loved ones more often if you hadn’t already been texting, tweeting and emailing each other all day?

Facebook is a fantastic service for keeping up to date with my friends overseas, but I’d rather meet you at a coffee shop to flick through the photos of your recent trip to Paris than browse by them online. Facebook has permeated our culture so much that when I do meet up with friends in person, the social media tool always comes up in conversation: “Hey, I saw on Facebook that Alice and Steve are back together.”
“Yeah, he sent me a tweet today saying how happy their parents are about it.”
“Oh, are you going to that gig on Friday?”
“Yeah, I already RSVP’d on Facebook.”

Rather than having this conversation around the water cooler with the real live colleagues in my office, I’m posting it online. Case in point.

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