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Ipod’s impact on society

October 23, 2011

To celebrate iPod’s birthday today- here’s an Influx piece from 2004.

Much has been written about iPod’s success as a brand and the brilliance of its marketing and design. Some observers have just named iPod brand of the year for 2004.

In today’s iPod world, music seems to be playing an ever increasing role in everyone’s lives. People who in the past might have thought themselves too old for Walkmen, are now only too happy to don an iPod, and on many a child’s Christmas list, could be seen an iPod Mini.

As the wireless phone has played an important role in changing ritual and elements of behavior, what will the iPod and its ilk do for society and business?

Is it becoming a “spa in our pocket”- helping to relieve the stresses of the day?

How might this impact the analgesic, alcoholic beverage and spa businesses?

Is it making us more isolated, like the wireless phone, pushing us away from contact with strangers?

Guardian newspaper on the iPod and the loss of public social space

Does this mean opportunities to socialize will become even more important?

Are we becoming music connoisseurs, seeking knowledge about all flavors and styles?

Do we want more music education and knowledge and who can help us?

What other personal totems could be created that express who we are?

Sometime ago Philips worked on the concept of memory containers- what might these be now and what would they contain?

Listening to the iPod clearly takes us to another place, it allows us to drift into something of a meditative state. This is interesting because its this area where we show our private selves, rather than our public face. Watch people as they listen to their iPods walking down a busy street or on a plane. They don’t seem to be quite with us.

Photographer Bettina von Zwehl has spent some time exploring and photographing this phenomenon. Not with iPod users, but students at the Royal College of Music in London. The students were played music and after 10 or so minutes, von Zwehl, surprised the women by photographing them listening to music while in different musically induced meditative states. The photographs are fascinating because they show people on the boundary between their public and private space.

iPod has now become firmly ingrained in our culture, its become an icon and we can only wait to see what its real impact on society will be and the ripple effects this might have in the business world.

For more on the sociology of iPod, consult Professor Bull at the UK’s University of Sussex, who is emerging as the academic authority on the subject. He was interviewed by Wired Magazine early in 2004.

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