Date of Award

December 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Media Studies

First Advisor

David S. Allen

Committee Members

Richard Popp, Michael Newman


Apple, Control Society, Discourse Analysis, Information Technology, iPhone, Smartphone Surveillance


The widespread adoption of smartphone technology in the contemporary United States requires critical reflection on its role within society. This thesis compares the way Apple's television advertising discourse, from 2007 to 2011, frames the iPhone to consumers with the way Apple's iAd promotional material frames the iPhone to advertisers, and considers what the disparity between these two frameworks says about the still-evolving role of smartphone technology in society. It argues that the disparity between these two frameworks is indicative of a fundamental tension within smartphone technology. This tension is reflected in Apple's ability to discursively construct the iPhone as a tool of user empowerment, while at the same time discursively constructing the iPhone as a sophisticated market research and advertising platform. This study shows that user agency is complicated by the iPhone's technical design which produces information about the user in an effort to modify their behavior for commercial purposes.