Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Brickt, Bricked, Broken: Music Management and Socialization

Last week my vintage 20GB iPod bricked...died, dead, for good. As much of a techno-enthusiast as
I am, lusting after the newest in small tech, I continued to use this older version of the iPod even though I have a newer model. Maybe it was because it was the first iPod I owned, or that it worked fine for what I needed, or maybe I was just proving that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds". Regardless, my 20 GB is done.

Maybe fortuitously Apple announced that it will be unveiling upgraded iPods next week (9/9/08 to be exact). I have been seriously considering becoming current, or au courant, even.

But I digress, since my iPod bricked I have been riding around listening to CDs (instead of uploading my library to the newer iPod). This experience has proven to be a really weird meditation of sorts. I have become accustomed to certain characteristics of portability and management when it comes to music. This is stating the obvious to most (and prior to actually driving and listening to CDs such a comment would've seemed inane to me as well). I'm so privileged that I can use the word anachronism to describe this...kinda like Douglas Coupland used to talk about trust-funders faux dropping out and working as a sort of boutique slumming at McDonalds (see Generation X circa 1992).

My round-a-bout point to all this is: beyond mere socialization how many of us have any real vision for what we want to do with our music? Yes, I know there's a lot out there about DRM and exchange of mp3s and accolades for not being beholden to the album format. But what I'm asking is what do you want from your music in grandiose terms? How do you know? Is it from seeing live shows (assuming people still do that)? Is it from being really solid at online music exchange or consumption? Is it from roller skating with a ghetto blaster around your local suburban mall...wait, I bet you can't do that. What socializes us to music use and approach versus what socializes us to music appreciation and experience? Are we losing something here? At what point do the old practices seems weird, anachronistic, or even unfruitful?

It's possible to pose such questions due to our accelerated information culture that's buttressed by better and better technologies. I'm still hoping my philosophy for this materializes before September 9th. Gotta go change out some CDs.


Tbirdparrish said...

Moving back to CDs for a while must have been all but painful for you. I'll admit the thought of losing my own iPod for even a few days would prompt me to buy another one immediately. A life without music conveniently at my fingertips is no life at all. I hardly ever find myself turning on the radio in the car because I have to search for music, but with my iPod I can create playlists and listen to the music I like, all at the touch of a button.

The greatest advantage and use of music today comes from the ability to personalize it to our own individual preferences. Perhaps this is the ultimate desire we seek out of our music. The evidence from a technological standpoint is clear. As personal media has advanced over the past several decades we have gone through several types of media: Video Cassettes, CDs, and now MP3. Each of these mediums has given us increasing levels of control with the personalization of our music, ultimately leading to MP3s which have given users total control over their music.

So, to answer your question about what people want from their music, I think they want control over it, now more than ever before. The only things we’re losing are the two or three songs on most CD albums that we wouldn’t have listened to anyway.

smarlowe11 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
smarlowe11 said...

I have a great amount of sympathy for you and your loss. Hey, who am I kidding---you did not lose a kitten or even your wallet, but you did indeed lose what is known to be as a valuable piece of technology in today's society-your iPod. I say lost because it is no longer in your presence. I must sympathize with you because I too lost my 'baby' recently. Over the summer, my 'survival tool' was stolen, and I went completely nuts. Unlike you, I did not have a backup and I am now back to the CDs[how dreadful].

To some extent, I think that we have become too accustomed to the changes in technology, that when we unfortunately have to resort back to traditional or older sources,we completely dread it. The advances in technology are destroying the traditional ways of listening to music because now we have a sense of control. We can control what music we would like to have, how to order the music on play lists,etc. I say, "Out with the old and in with the new, but remain mindful of the old and what it can do."

sai said...

I personally don't think losing a iPod is that much a lost... to be honest..there are countless of MP3 players you can choose from...I just thought Americans are too obsessed with iPod. Ironically, iPod is by far of the lowest quality of music, according to consumers who have compare other brands with iPod. If you want your favorite songs played in good quality, stop using iPod.

Anonymous said...

The breaking of an iPod is always a bummer. I'm actually surprised yours lasted as long as it did. Mine tend to typically peter out at around two years. As for the regeneration of CD's in your car, I personally think that’s pretty neat. I actually never used my iPod in the car, something about trying to look down, turn the click wheel, select the playlist--all while staying on the road, just never really appealed to me. A CD is so much more reliable. It always is clear. (I.e. no fiddling with the FM transmitter stuff). It is also so much simpler, as searching for songs only requires the push of one button--no click wheel necessary. I say, enjoy your CD's. Take heart in their shiny reflection and sweet and simple ways.

Soungmin "Albert" Cho said...

Unfortunately, my Ipod broke 6 months ago and I remember spending nearly a month trying to fix it by searching solutions online. Without getting any positive results, I finally took it to the Apple's service center and as soon as they saw it they said I have to pay $120 dollars fix it. I thought about getting new ipod but instead I would just give up music.
What I realized from this "Ipod break down" was I was not the only one that had to throw out my iPod or pay a lot of money to fix it.
However, ipod is still the number one mp3 player in the world. Despite many problems with ipod, people seem so fond of ipod. Surely, Apple's iPod is dominating the world in selling iPod and that's what I don't like Ipod.
The world's biggest mp3 company has so many problems and their only focus seem to be selling more by producing new generations of ipod like everyday. Like Sai said, there are other mp3 players with far better sound qualities and better prices. I think its time for everyone to end Apple's domination.

Kaiyen said...

I must be a pariah. Having never owned an mp3 player nor really having the desire to shell out money for the Apple machine (double entendre intended), I'm one of those weird people that never walks around with headphones stuffed in or around my ears. Before my integrity to life is questioned, yes, I do like listening to music; yes, it would be great to be able to do that a lot of the time; yes, mp3 players are a nice way to carry around music in compact form; yes, I do use iTunes (the player, not the online music service) and listen to music while working on my computer. So why do I sit on the outskirts of society's norms with respect to mobile music?

Well, short answer: I'm poor. Shiny new technologies are wonderful and good, but most of all expensive. As a result, I've learned to cope with walking around and actually listening to my environment as difficult as it may seem. For fear of sounding too much like an anti-iPod snob, I won't go into too much detail, but there is something romantically rustic about not constantly having tweeters and subwoofers blaring in my ears.

Fletch said...

I can understand the importance of having music as a part of one's life. However, just as you said, experience differs with user and situation. Some only listen to music on their iPod, or on their car stereo, however, any music enthusiast would know there is a great deal of significance in seeing a song performed live, such as in a concert or performance. My live music experience is limited to orchestra concerts and group performances (in other words, no Weezer concerts). :-( However, there is a great deal of emotion related to seeing, for example, The Pines of Rome, in real life than simply listening to some recording. Such epic pieces assume roles that actually affect the reader and change the meaning of the song. These ideas become my fuel for seeing and becoming part of a live performance.

This is one significance of music to me, and part of my goal in listening to music is the simulation of live performances, whether it is noise-cancelling headphones, a car stereo, or a surround-sound system in a large room. Over the past summer, I found my father's record collection and began listening to music I had never heard of before, but were big deals in the '70s (The Mahavishnu Orchestra, for example). Our record plays through our surround-system, and for some reason, when I was immersed in 5 minute long drum solos, I felt some strange connection with the music that is not there when I hear a song for the first time through my computer or cd player. It may have been the LP experience, but I felt like I was actually sitting in front of the group on stage, and it felt amazing. Listening to these records was one of the most rewarding experiences of my summer, and in this sense, I would not consider these older practices and means of music recording retired at all. They are still very much so a part of the music community and those that embrace the past learn are able to improve in the future.

So yes, I would agree we are losing this experience through the combination and immediate access to vast amounts of music at once, but that is what the new, technological world is all about, efficiency.

Anonymous said...

This post made me think of several things, hopefully I'll be able to stitch them together cohesively. First of all, my condolences on your loss. As a fellow techno-enthusiast, I recognize just how enmeshed our devices become in our selves and our processes, so when one "dies" (bricks, whatever), it's almost like a little part of you bricks too. I remember way back when my first pager was irreconcilably damaged and I had to get a new one; that was a tough day. It is kind of surreal to feel a sense of loss, or even mourn the loss of a device of some sort. It tells you a lot about the modern era, and it tells you a lot about people. Some people identify themselves by the devices that they use: "I'm a Blackberry guy," or "I'm a Machead," or "insert your favorite device/brand here." People are naturally social beings, so we look for ways to join more and more communities, if even on small or superficial levels. Although, in some ways, knowing what technology communities a person has joined tells you a lot about them. I think that someone could write a pretty convincing essay arguing that the Mac/PC dichotomy is very similar to the Democrat/Republican dichotomy. By using a Mac vs. a PC, you have chosen a side, a political affiliation, at least in some small way. But I digress.

The other thought that came to me was that it is astonishing just how engrained we are to the status quo of our technological lives; it's like were dug in like ticks. If I haven't been to a place before, invariably I will use the Internet for directions. If I were to be in a situation where either my phone isn't in my pocket or my computer wasn't within arms reach, I would be immediately disconcerted. I think that I could figure my way out quickly enough, but the point remains that technology has essentially socialized me to feel a sense of panic if I don't have access to the Web... it's almost as if by not having my iPhone on me, I'm completely checked out from the collective.

Matt Schaefer said...

I'm sympathetic to your plight. I managed to run my iPod through the washing machine 4 weeks ago, and overall the amount of time I've spent listening to music has decreased rapidly. It's made me think about the people before the 20th century, where to hear any music, one had to make it oneself, or go to a concert, or to church, or another location, a true special event, because there was no music but live music. I'm going to need to deal with the Apple “geniuses” to try to get it fixed or get a new one, which is not an experience I'm looking forward to. In my experience you can get a good “genius” or a bad “genius,” and their entire marketing strategy is just so over the top. No actual genius is going to have to resort to working at an apple store, and I honestly think the title gives the employees an ego-trip, because just from personal experience, people who work at apple stores think they know everything, when half the time they’re busy giving you non-answers that don’t really help.

Liz M-B. said...

Prepare for a quasi-embittered rant about the state of music in today's world: Yes, we want control over our music. Your average consumer would like music to be speedily-acquired and high quality, all the better if it's contained in a neat, aesthetically appealing ipod, but I'd really like to emphasize that "consumer" is the operative word here. What we want from our music is heavily determined by what the music wants from us, aka rapid consumption. The nature of music today, very pre-packaged, MTV-ified, sets its own terms: sex, bass, catchiness. It's true that the internet has allowed for the improved quality of music, for more user control and less exorbitant fees for music, but the average mindset is, I think, NOT grandiose. Only a small group of people really care about their music enough to conceptualize it. The average person wants it fast, catchy, and quick. Those releasing technology surely appreciate the egalitarian leanings of the internet and mp3's, but they're also out to make a profit, and we respond to the perimeters they set.

Anonymous said...

We've always had control of our music. iPods, mp3s, and music cites have just made it easier to discover new music and in greater quantities. Personally I use all mediums for my music, whether it be iPod, computer, cds, or even turning on the archaic radio in my car. The thrill of seeing live shows will never change because getting tickets is the same as it has ever been. The number of people attending a show will always be limited, whereas the music won't be. Blasting music on my iPod, no matter high tech it is, will never compare to jumping around and singing along in a crowd watching a show.

Anonymous said...

Today many people, like you, cannot live without their iPod within arms reach. Simply, people have become so accustom to having 1000s of songs anytime and anywhere they believe they cannot live without it. However, contrary to many people’s beliefs, iPods are “not vital.”
In fact, I did not get an iPod until a few months. I finally got my first iPod for free with the purchase of my new computer. In fact, I doubt I would have an iPod to this day if I did not get it for free. Call me cheap and eldritch . . . Yes I do listen to music all the time and no I am not living in a different generation. I simply just never bothered to get one. Throughout the years, my parents offered to buy me an iPod; however, I never really saw a huge need to get one so I didn’t. It is simple . . . I always have music readily on my computer to listen to and in the car I listen to the radio or various CD’s. More importantly, I am a very indecisive person when it comes to music; therefore, it is far easier to listen to the radio where someone else chooses the order and types of songs played. I have found that now that I have an iPod I still do not use it that often. Occasionally, I use my iPod to run on the treadmill, but when I am in the car I still find myself listening to the radio.
Individuals have trained themselves to be 100% dependent on their iPod and when they do not have it stress and anxiety begins to surface. Particularly, it simply depends on your way of life, if you are accustom to having something all the time any time then when that object or thing is taken away the person is going to strongly want it back. Specifically that object for millions of people in American is their iPod. IPods can become addictive just like tobacco and alcohol.

Anonymous said...

Ipod, mp3, CD's. Does it really matter? Music is exactly that. I got an Ipod for Christmas in 2006 and I must say I only asked for it since I was the only one of my friends who did not already own one. My parents gave me a 2GB Ipod Nano, and quite frankly, it sat in the case in my room for months after. The first time it was opened, it was for a trip in which I did not want to pack all my CDs, so Dr. Taylor, I applaud your 'blast to the past,' as I feel it is almost, ironically, liberating to return to good ol' dependable technology. To add to my earlier anecdote, last year I hit a mailbox in my neighborhood while trying to change a song on my Ipod. Needless to say, I have returned to the traditional CDs while driving, which happens to be more convenient for my lifestyle. Technology doesn't agree with me; I'm not going to fight it.

But good luck with your new and improved Ipod. I pray you have better luck than I have had.

tina said...

I have to say that this is a common dilemma in our digital and electronics-obsessed world. I personally have witnessed iPods malfunction due to mechanics, get stolen, run through the wash, and get dropped to a point of no return. These things are fragile and most use them constantly; it is not surprising that they do not last forever. With that being said, it does speak to our current state of being "tethered," that is, irrevocably addicted to our devices.

I do not believe our approaches to listening to music is changing the experience, per say. If I enjoy an artist, I am still inclined to see that artist live. The mp3 revolution merely aided millions in quickly accessing, exchanging, and organizing their music.

(Un)fortunately, there is always a new iPod to be had. It seems that just as one gets used to his or her iPod, a new one arrives. In a way, we are constantly stuck a bit behind the times. On the other hand, there is a mysterious delineation between something being old (bad) and something being vintage (good). I would venture to say that some would consider your old 20 gig to be "cool," that is, a badge of honor to have been such an early adopter of the iPod.

Anonymous said...

I can only imagine the frustration of one’s ipod breaking down, since now days, an ipod serves not only as a tool for storing music but also for many other personal uses. I guess it just proves how much we rely on digital gadgets during our daily lives (this not only applies to ipods but also to computers, cell phones etc). This summer, I also went under a drastic change of using a CD player instead of a ipod. Actually to be honest, I had no choice since I couldn’t get a hold of the song I wanted in a mp3 file. Although I’m sure I looked odd holding a CD player when walking down streets while other people had their little ipods or other high tech gadgets that were small enough to fit in their pockets, I actually enjoyed my behind-tech way of listening to music, reminiscing the days when all we had were CD players.

Anonymous said...

I can relate to your experience because I also happen to have a vintage 20GB iPod that I got four years ago. Over the course of four years, I was tempted to replace my old iPod with new iPods. But I soon realized that technology develops everyday and there is always going to be a newer, better product. It was a waste of money to buy the latest electronic device unless my old one was completely unusable or it affected my life.

I could also relate to the use of CD's in place of mp3 in a way. I have recently purchased the 5th album of Epik High, which is a Korean hip hop group. I could have bought there songs on iTunes or even illegally downloaded their songs, but I bought their CD album because it just shows my passion and support for their music. I also think that you would not be a true fan of a band if you did not even have their album on CD.