MIchael Bull’s Sound Moves

A bit repetitive, as though it were article expanded into a book. It consists mainly of snippets from interviews with iPod users, and seems a little dated. Offers insight into a time before iPod’s capabilities were taken for granted. The interesting aspect of the book is the argument about iPods reflecting post-Fordist subjectivity. They allow users to dictate the feel of the space they occupy and are invited to believe they have escaped the imposition of conformity by “mass culture”. They can alter the sound world of the workplace to ostensibly suit their needs — do they opt out of immaterial labor and the general intellect this way?

Urban life doesn’t impose its rhythms and symbols on them so much as they impose a soundtrack on their journey through urban spaces, taking in from those spaces only what suits them and blotting out the rest. They “subjectivize space — consume it as if it were a commodity. In the process, immediate experience is fetishized…. Users prefer to live in this technologized space whereby experience is brought under control — aesthetically managed and embodied — whilst the contingent nature of urban space and the ‘other’ is denied.” Basically, iPods foster the illusion of control by imposing sensory deprivation. We become dependent on them to “feel free” and autonomous, withdrawing to its tiny space, where we are lord and master.

Because we can carry so much music with us, we stop letting music dictate a mood to us; we choose music to suit our attitude. We don’t listen; we deploy music as mood enhancer or stimulant or whatever.

Also, iPods are a polite means by which we permit ourselves to ignore everyone else. “The use of these technologies simultaneously fulfills the desire for, or management of, social proximity.” That is, we use them to control social presence, to moderate (through socially accepted means — accepted perhaps because they are new technologies and that excuses the rudeness), our level of engagement with others in public spaces.


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