Its a word that suddenly came to mind when I recently checked in for a flight. No, Im not referring to the mid-air feeling of air being sucked out of my head through my ears, or the inability to use ones nose when a virus decides to lie resident in ones body system.
For a brief visualisation, consider the following: three children with IPOD style white headphones strands dangling from their ears, congregating near their parents – each probably plugged into their own mini-IPODs. There appears to be no communication between the individuals and each looks in different directions. Will babies be given or have white headphones fitted as standard as soon as they are born? Perhaps, each baby carrier could be fitted with a mini-stereo phono jack so that information on good child behaviour and tips for not annoying your parents could be fed through. Better still, a feed for different languages so that by the time the child is five it could speak 10 languages!
The IPOD and devices similar to it raise important issues. N.B. Dont get me wrong, I too am an avid IPOD user and fan but have noticed the need to ease off on the volume control, only because over use can affect ones hearing!
The first issue that comes to mind is its contribution to the individualisation of society. The use of an IPOD or personal stereo will help you join in the ranks of zombie Ville. You only have to sit on any public transport system and notice that no one attempts conversation or eye contact! Now with an IPOD you too can tune yourself away from the big wide world completely.
Many argue that the IPOD and devices similar to it have introduced a new and novel way of listening to music or audio books, beyond the original aim of the Sony walkman concept. For example, with IPOD type devices the ability to create play lists allows the user to easily select tracks from thousands of album tracks, enabling you to quickly assemble your own favourite compilations. However, the anti-IPOD brigade suggests that by being too selective, the essence of listening to a complete album from beginning to end is lost. Consider: The Streets A Grand dont come for free album. Sure, the individual tracks sound great but there is an underlying message that can be gained from listening to the album from the first to the final track. My answer is consider both options. With some devices over 16000 tracks can be selectable!
You may also wish to consider that such devices are effectively enabling Tivo functionality. Tivo was developed a few years ago and appears to be the root technology for Sky-plus digital satellite TV reception and recording, i.e.: the ability to record what you want on a hard-disk player and play it back when you want to. It can be considered the same as a video recorder but easier to use in terms of programming, playback and management of recordings. Now personal IPOD mp3 files are available (the quality is very varied!) with a current appeal to niches through currently non-commercial broadcast channels.
So there you have it, a fashion icon has now changed the behaviour of the listening public. We can plug-in or tune in and tune-out or cop-out.
On a positive note, if we ensure some digital rights management it could open up an ironic way of communicating. Instead of conversing face-to-face, well be fed from ear-to-ear, across boundaries but linked through virtual connections.