"Alone, even doing nothing, you do not waste your time. You do, almost always, in company. No encounter with yourself can be altogether sterile: Something necessarily emerges, even if only the hope of some day meeting yourself again." (E.M. Cioran)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

iPod Rant

iPods. Mobile phones. Tomorrow's garbage. Here we are in 2006 - a gadget-obsessed world, especially (it would appear) amidst Generation Y, who almost always appear to be turned on, tuned in and out of reach. Never has Marshall McCluhan's famous phrase - 'the medium is the message' - been so relevant, because what are we talking about here? iPods are actually only mediums through which music/audio works are transmitted. But are we really listening to the music? Seems to me that being seen to possess these gadgets is what's most important, due to the intense marketing campaigns of 'Apple', that relentlessly push the 'cool image' factor. Mobile music is hardly anything new anyway and, in terms of sound quality, good cassette walkmans and MD players can hold a key advantage, when considering the compression ratios people often use to get the desired (advertised) number of tracks onto their iPods. The quality is often no better than bad AM radio!

Of course, mobile music has its place (as with mobile phones) but - perhaps with the exception of long solo plane/train/bus trips - it doesn't work for me. I simply find music - and the audio world in general - too interesting and absorbing. Listening commands my attention and is therefore distracting, so that, plugged in and walking around, with the sound not relating to my surroundings, I find myself in an ever-present danger of being run over by moving vehicles. And anyway, what's the point of leaving the house, except to be immersed in a different sensory environment from the one you have built for yourself?

Yeah, baby. It's the medium that rules. As I see it, a sort of fetishism of objects and technology, where users can shut themselves inside their own micro-world and non-users out. 'Being on our own together', as the catchphrase (apparently) goes. Participants are fond of asserting that this is a new type of community and I'm aware that kids like to fit into their peer groups. But perhaps it's just another form of social eliticism, based around an apparent 'need' to own expensive products. Also, sometimes I'm concerned that humans are progressively merging their individual identites into cultures (or even celebrities) identified with - already conveniently pre-packaged for them. The scariest thing is that we do this so readily and willingly.

Another concept in human engineering? I guess I should just lighten up.

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