iPod: a Personalized Sound World for its Consumers


  • Michael Bull




Mediation, toxicity, we-ness, filtering, music, mp3, mobile


For the first time in industrialised culture, over fifty percent of the population possesses the ability to privatise whatever environment they might be in through the use of a dedicated MP3 player or through a mobile phone with MP3 capabilities. The consumption of technologically mediated sound in the 20th and 21st centuries represents an increasingly significant mode of ‘being-in-theworld’ in which the ‘self’ claims a mobile and auditory territory for itself through a specific form of ‘sensory gating’ permitting the user to screen out unwanted sounds through the creation of their own seductive soundscape. The untrammelled pleasures of creating a privatised mobile soundworld resonates through urban and cultural theory posing a set of interrelated theoretical problems relating to both our relation to the spaces we move through. the nature and meaning of public and private space., the potential for urban aestheticisation, urban retreat and withdrawalIn this paper I discuss the use of Apple iPod in terms of its use as a technological support system of users. The paper draws upon the Internet responses of over one thousand iPod users worldwide between 2004 and 2005. The paper investigates the specific nature of auditory mediation that use entails. It argues that iPod use can usefully be interpreted as a form of pleasurable toxicity within which the ‘total mediated’ world of users lies a dream of unmediated experience - of direct access to the world and one’s emotions..