Some Things About Fashionable Tech

What is great when it comes to technology: looking cool due to the price of a gadget or your understanding of how that gadget works?

I often reflect on this subject especially when I think of certain debates that often crop up:

  • Is Windows better than Linux or Mac OS X?
  • Is the iOS more sexy than Android?
  • Is one brand of laptops better than the other?
  • Which browser performs the best?

These are sort of questions that make for an interesting research as answers to them may offer interesting insights regarding the type of consumers, their location and the companies behind developing and promoting winning products. For instance, Statista is one of a number of sites that can help you glean enough information to understand trends in what really is hot at the moment — from operating systems, programming languages to mobile platforms.

Well, these are issues that are better addressed by sociologists and tech researchers when it comes to fashion and trends. For instance, Norene Kelly (2016) observes that sometimes when it comes to putting on clothes, or wearable devices, we do so as a way of gaining acceptability not only amongst our peers but even more so with the rest of the society.1

This is even more pronounced with the latest fashion: we usually want to be the first ones to get it, and this to some extent helps boost our social standing. So it is no wonder that when something is fashionable, everyone wants to have it.

From this angle, being popular is the same as being fashionable. This is how norms take root in any society.

Anyway, back to our discussion on technology, are there any practical benefits to having something that is being used by a large number of users worldwide?

For instance, does having a Twitter or a Facebook account indeed prove that I really understand connectedness in the modern era or not? Or is it because this is where everyone else is at the moment?

That last question indeed has the answer: a practical benefit to using something which is popular with other people is because it has many users in the first place.

When you run into a problem using such a technology, be it an operating system, a car brand or anything for that matter, help is close by: you can be assured that you will get aid in no time. In fact, a number of downstream industries are spawned on the basis of widely used technologies, so you can get both free and commercial service.

This fact alone may explain the popularity of the Windows operating system (on the desktop) and Android (mobile) today.

Their popularity will feed into their adoption not only by ordinary consumers, but even government institutions and corporate bodies.

But what about something not widely used

On the other hand, some people indeed find it “common” to use what everyone else is using. They would rather have branded clothing rather than buy a trending design. In fact, such popularity may be a sign of reduction in value of a brand. So,

  • Rarity is a mark of distinction;
  • A status symbol is maintained by having what others might not have;
  • This is especially true when a particular brand, gadget or technology is on the high end.

So this may explain why having an operating system such as a Mac OS X or an iOS platform may indeed represent being in a particular class.

This same logic applies for people who may be technically advanced to an extent of preferring to use a command-line operating system such as one of the Linux Distros here to prove a point.

But does it Matter?

Yes, it matters. Whatever we do in life helps us to some extent: some reasons may appear to be foolish to someone else. Yet it is important to bear in mind that our value systems aren’t the same anyway.

At the end of the day, it may happen that you will be caught in one of these arguments and even heated debates about which one is good or not. This is not good for someone starting out:

  • You are trying to learn how to use a computer;
  • You just want something usable and understandable from your own point of view;
  • In fact, simplicity may be all that matters when you wish to navigate the maze of the tech world.

The best thing to do is to decide what is important as far as your own career development is concerned. After doing that, set goals you wish to achieve as far as understanding technology is concerned.

Having done that, work with what is affordable and accessible to you and not to your friends or peers.

Perhaps, one of these coming days, you would be prepared to participate in those debates.

But make sure never to put someone off by your arguments, particularly when they are new and need your help.

Instead of helping newcomers, some of these arguments may border on arrogance and lack benefit to them. The only point bolstered when a this versus that flames start is just building armies of fans and haters along the way.2

Conclusion

If you want to help someone beginning in the world of tech, be honest with him or her that what is important is his/her productivity at the end of the day. Being popular or unpopular is not a mark of a product’s virtues or vices. Instead, it is just what the market had settled on based on a product’s ease of use, the way it had been promoted and of course the place.

If it is affordable, then it is bound to be popular and thus setting a trend. The history of the computer is a testimony to that: until IBM and Microsoft collaborated together to bring the PC into the household, it was just a rarity. A gadget for university and research institutions.

Hence the way Windows had managed to dominate the desktop industry for more than three or so decades now. But that does not make it any better than its rivals: instead its dominance is simply explained by its marketing approach.


  1. Kelly, Norene, “The WEAR Scale: Development of a Measure of the social acceptability of a wearable device” (2016). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 15230. https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/etd/15230 ↩︎

  2. However, arguments of this nature often make for an entertaining read if you have got the time. Simply Google for “Windows versus Linux”, “Android versus iOS”, “Emacs versus VI/VIM”, or even in the accessibility world, “JAWS versus NVDA”, and you will be thrilled by what you find. These types of controversies had been going on for more than forty years now. ↩︎

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