Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication and Rhetorical Studies


Rachel Hall


Branding, Digital surveillance, iPhone, Performance, Rhetoric, Technology

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Engaging with rhetorical studies, performance studies, and surveillance studies, this thesis attempts to outline the ideological construction of the experience of iPhone, underlining how this experience—and its performance—is imbricated with conceptions of social control. To do this, I begin with the cultural oscillation between extreme psychological attachment to Apple’s iPhone and its complementary disposability. How can an object generate such attachment, yet remain disposable? To get at this question, I examine how attachment and disposability are layered together in an experience of iPhone structured by rhetorics of dematerialization. These are visual and discursive fragments that, together, construct an ideological impulse that tends toward the disappearance of the objects to which they refer, overall, working to supplement and promote iPhone’s culture of disposability. In relation to iPhone, this thesis examines rhetorics of dematerialization through three intersecting vectors: the device, the human user, and the proximal space that stages their interaction.

With rhetorics of dematerialization as the larger frame, my main analyses focus on specific instances of the tension between attachment and disposability, considered as performances of attachment. Generally, these are everyday performances on and with iPhone—gestural interface, picking it up, throwing it out—that 1) collapse attachment and disposability into each other under the rhetorical rubric of a phenomenal dematerialization, 2) require users to enact, embody, and assume the rhetorics of dematerialization, and 3) have both cultural and individual effects. iPhone’s culture of disposability relies on the dematerialization of waste and wasteful consumer practices. Individually, performances of attachment with iPhone allow new models of surveillance (through data-gathering and self-tracking practices) to permeate users’ everyday experience.


Open Access



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