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Is Apple fandom a religion? (+video)

As Apple fans await Tuesday's expected announcement of a smaller iPad, an anthropologist notes the event's similarities with religious revivals.

There's supposedly a new iPad in the works. Apple is expected to unveil a pint-size version of the tablet on Tuesday at an event in San Jose, Calif. CNET's Sumi Das has a preview.
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Apple's emphasis on its icon and the company's policy of not live-streaming its launch events are just a couple ways that Apple product launches resemble religious revival meetings, according to one anthropologist.

Many Apple observers and academic researchers have covered how Mac fan culture can seem a little like a religion — or a cult. With the upcoming iPad "Mini" launch event, however, TechNewsDaily wanted to take a deeper look at Apple product launches. We asked Kirsten Bell, an anthropologist at the University of British Columbia in Canada, to look at some launch videos for us.

She came to some of the same conclusions as her predecessors, including Eastern Washington University sociologist Pui-Yan Lam, who published an academic paper more than a decade ago that called Mac fandom an "implicit religion."

"A stranger observing one of the launches could probably be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into a religious revival meeting," Bell wrote to TechNewsDaily in an email. Bell now studies the culture of modern biomedical research, but before she got interested in scientists, she studied messianic religious movements in South Korea.

Apple's product launches take place in a building "littered with sacred symbols, especially the iconic Apple sign itself," she said. During keynote speeches, an Apple leader "addresses the audience to reawaken and renew their faith in the core message and tenets of the brand/religion."

Even Apple's tradition of not broadcasting launches in real time is akin to a religious event, Bell said. (Today's event will be available live on Apple's website.) "Like many Sacred Ceremonies, the Apple Product Launch cannot be broadcast live," she wrote. "The Scribes/tech journalists act as Witness, testifying to the wonders they behold via live blog feeds."

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