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Music Notes: Pod People

ipods replace social life with personal soundtracks

 by Erika Wurst  published on Thursday, February 10, 2005

<em>Brandon Quester / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE</em><br>Weighing only 5.6 ounces, ipods have changed the ease with which people listen to music.  Although these small machines can hold thousands of songs, some say people are listening more to their music than conversing with each other./issues/arts/691896
Brandon Quester
Brandon Quester / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Weighing only 5.6 ounces, ipods have changed the ease with which people listen to music. Although these small machines can hold thousands of songs, some say people are listening more to their music than conversing with each other.
 

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Picture it: Tempe's Arcadia High School, 1999.

It's passing period. Flocks of students make their way from class to class exchanging the latest gossip, making out by lockers and spending their six minutes of between-class freedom being as social as possible.

That was the high school scene that today's college students remember, before the ipod conquered all.

Today, passing period is much different.

"Everyone has headphones on. No one talks," says Carly Gilleland, a sophomore at Arcadia. "It's like a movie. Everyone's all zoned out like zombies."

Sophomore Ali Liberman chimes in, "You're into your music. Why bother talking to everyone else?"

This exact scenario also is common at ASU, where the trendy little white headphones have become as much of a fashion statement as Uggs or Von Dutch hats.

ipods, which weigh 5.6 ounces, let users carry their entire music collections in their pockets without the hassle of CDs. They are not only changing the way people listen to music, but also the way people interact with one another.

Markus Giesler, an assistant professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business in Toronto, is conducting academic research to better understand how the ipod is altering the social fabrics of people's lives and identities.

Sound outlandish? Think again.

Lynde Low, a fibers freshman, has noticed the negative social effects caused by her 3-month-old ipod, which she keeps in a green sock.

"I like to turn it up loud," she says. "I like to be in a completely different realm."

But sometimes that realm gets on people's nerves.

Low works with her mom making clothing accessories, and the time they spend together at work has changed dramatically since she got her ipod. They once listened to the same music and chatted casually.

"Now I communicate so much less. I'm never 'there.' I'm so out of sync with my surroundings," Low says. "Sometimes we have to have 'no-ipod time.' "

But for others such as communication senior Eric Kardesh, the ipod is a true blessing.

"I don't like to talk to people on campus anyway," he says. "I like to get from point A to B. I'm all business and the ipod keeps me on track."

The handy little gadget has also restored his faith in music.

"If you want to know about how I regained my love of music," he says, "you have to understand where I lost it."

With an enormous CD collection, Kardesh found it impossible to carry even a third of his favorites with him, so he didn't. Today, he says he's a "mobile DJ."

"I could bump tunes at a party if I wanted to," he says with a laugh. "Music has come back into my life. It makes little things like walking to campus easier, quicker and more enjoyable."

Music is a major facet of many people's lives. Some define themselves by the tunes they listen to, by choosing the clothes they wear and the people to whom they talk to based on musical preferences.

And in a way, the ipod has become the soundtrack to its owner's life. Low knows this first hand. She has "project music," which she listens to when she's working on her art. She has inspiration music, which she'll listen to when she "has no direction but needs to get something done."

"If I'm having a great time, I'll get some Depeche Mode in there and definitely Bjork -- always a splash somewhere," she says. "It doesn't matter what mood I'm in."

Looking at a person's music collection can often speak volumes about who that person is.

"You can look inside somebody (through their ipod)," Gilleland says. "You can see their personality. It's like a portable way of looking into somebody."

Reach the reporter at erika.wurst@asu.edu.



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