Watching last night’s broadcast of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, my ears perked up on a segment about the impact of the iPod. Since its introduction in 2001, Apple’s iPod has been transforming the landscape of technology and culture. From a must-have among snowboarders at the recent Olympics to new cars that come iPod-ready, the report suggested that people are as interested in what the iPod says about who they are as the opportunities the technology gives them to control their environment.
What some scholars refer to as the “ podification” of society–now there’s a word I hadn’t added to my vocabulary–was reported as just the latest chapter in a continuing story of technology and culture. From the remote control, VCR, to Sony Walkman, the personalization of technology allows us to exercise almost complete control over our environment and contributes to what Christine Rosen calls “ egocasting,” the thoroughly personalized and extremely narrow pursuit of one’s personal taste.
So, what does it mean if we’re all walking around with iPod buds stuffed in our ears? Isolated, “ alone together,” propagating the “ hear only what we want to hear” mentality would be the downside. The more positive outlook recognizes a democratizing impulse encouraged by the technology, and educational opportunities at all levels of the spectrum that provide students with potential audiences to whom they feel accountable.