A reader actually responded to my most recent PopMatters column (very gratifying!) and amplified some of the idea there, positing that we’re invited to compose our identity via pop-culture product but to see ourselves as true originals (and derivative conformists) because of how we “remix” the cultural detritus we select to fixate on. This seems totally accurate, and it explains certain phenomena: the existence of Sprite Remix, for example, and the suddenly popular and mainstream idea that Djs are somehow artists in their own right. But the cultural object that symbolizes this zeitgeist best is, of course, the ubiquitous iPod, ownership of which has from the beginning far transcended its actual functionality. Why the iPod became a phenomenon when other technological gizmos haven’t has to do with its application to the sort of identity now being promoted by consumer culture. The iPod is the culmination (and now, the furthering agent) of conceiving personal identity as a random shuffle of our favorite cultural touchstones or as a specially contrived playlist. This lets us think that having an iPod makes us spectacular unique at the same time it makes us perfectly cool and enviable at the same time we conform perfectly to the promulgated ideal of cutting-edge consumption. It makes the contradiction of “conforming by trying hard to be unique” cohere.