24 July 2013

phoning in classist humor

Mashable shared this ExtraLife comix strip last week and asked: "Which side do you fall on?"

The joke bombed for me, and not because I'm an Android user. I found it classist. The strip presents two stereotypes: The iOS user -- appearing white, male, and in his early 20s -- is well-adjusted, smartly groomed, and willing to spend money. The Android user -- also appearing white and male, but older -- is surly, sloppy, and cheap. The punchline hinges on their physical and spending differences. At the Android user's expense. The stereotype supposes bad character, not a lack of economic options. Apple's gadgets via iOS are a premium (i.e. more expensive) brand; Android's open source lends itself to generic (i.e. less expensive) brands. So, yeah, the joke flopped for me, especially since I've recently been introduced to the comedy-rule concept of "don't hit down" -- it's not good form for jokers in privileged social positions to "hit" those below them on the social ladder. The ExtraLife strip smacked of socioeconomic "hitting down" to me.

So what's the truth? Who are iOS users and who are Android users? Do they fit the strip's caricatures? A brief Google search turned up this article highlighting a Pew/American Life June 2013 report on iPhone and Android phone-user demographics. Princeton Survey Research Associates International conducted a phone survey of 2,252 adults (a solid sample size for generalization) and found...

OWNERSHIP: 25% own an iPhone. 28% own an Android phone.
RACE: A relative majority of iPhone owners identify as White. A relative majority of Android owners identify as Black.
GENDER: More women than men own iPhones. More men than women own Androids.
AGE: A plurality of iPhone users are 25-34 years-old. A plurality of Android users are 18-24.
INCOME: 36% of iPhone-user households make less than $50K/year; 40% make more than $75K. 55% of Android-user households make less than $50K; 31% make more than $75K.

If the ExtraLife strip was redrawn to present more generally accurate portraits, then... panel one (iOS) would feature a 30-year-old middle-class white woman and panel two (Android) would feature a 20-year-old lower-middle-class black man. Gadget OSs reflect social class differences on multiple levels. That's not funny. That's thought provoking.