What's in a Free Fjallraven Backpack

I read Mat's piece on F8 (taking its place in the pantheon of Mat tech fever-dream pieces) and the symbology of the backpack got stuck in my head: why this backpack? Why give this out for free to conference members, beyond the obvious affiliation with a European hipness? And I started free-associating the things that the backpack conjures: #scandinavian #schoolkid #youth #healthy #europe #healthcare #socialservices #import #expensive #utility #high-end-utility #boyish #play #fjords #crisp #modern #picnic #hostel

And then I realized why the backpack was selected as the conference gift for F8: as our own American economy crumbles, the tech economy becomes a kind of substitute/fantasy of a privatized European model of nationhood in the midst of America's deepening socioeconomic crises. If one joins the private nation of the tech company, one can have healthcare, healthfulness, youth, innocence, travel, pink-cheeked men in floppy haircuts, modernity, utility, luxury, hope. Or you can just be an attendee with a backpack that evokes the possibility all of these things.

This reminded me that the original Facebook-employee logo bag was the Jack Spade messenger bag -- a very newly optimistic post-99-crash kind of bag, evoking a kind of youthful-yet-adult professional masculinity [in the Facebook model, which has been amplified by the media and Hollywood, the model is always a man]. Now the company's bag of choice is a backpack, evoking nonprofessional pursuits like travel and school. It's as if the effort is to imagine a company in which the ideal employee is perpetually a young man on his gap year, never quite professionalized, never quite here nor there, but always in the flush of a cresting youth and prosperity, only to be replaced, like a new school class or stock or app, when he peaks or settles down.

And like all of tech's other contemporary stylings, the European backpack is both precious and basic-- a more expensive version of an everyday thing. Tip to the procurement team: to be truly hip in this #normcore age, Facebook would have to have given out Jansports.