Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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In Which I Critique the Culture of the iPod: My Latest For Tikkun

My piece in the latest Tikkun, which has been on newsstands for a few weeks now, is also up on the magazine's website. I think it came out well from a writing standpoint. I was able to use more of the research I conducted than is normally the case for a short piece. And the line of argument is strong. I had selected the following passage for the pull quote, which ended up not getting used because of space constraints:
By building on a longstanding belief that music is tightly bound to identity—you are the music you hear—Apple was able to imbue the iPod with the aura of home itself. If the rumbling bass of an SUV blasting hip-hop breaks down the invisible walls that divvy up our personal space in the public sphere, the iPod does exactly the opposite, building new barriers between us. Music may “know no boundaries,” but the purpose of the iPod is to protect them. As anyone who has spent some time sitting in a Star-bucks can tell you, the customers who work there use iPods to minimize the possibility for social interaction.
I do have some misgivings about the piece, though. Because I was consciously trying to construct a classic Critical Theory about the iPod, my argument is actually a little too strong for my taste. Although I stand behind my words, I would like to have had the space to acknowledge more positive aspects of the iPod phenomenon. While the way people listen to their portable digital music players in public is disturbing to me, I recognize that those moments of self-absorbtion may spur listeners to strike up conversation about music when their earbuds are out, suggesting that the devices are less anti-social than my argument implies. And then there's the fact that space and style constraints make it impossible for me to incorporate a self-reflexive dimension in my critique. After all, I'm also an iPod owner and that didn't stop me from achieving critical distance on their uses and abuses. Anyway, I'd be interested in hearing your responses to the piece, should you have the time and inclination to read it.
Tags: clips, cultural studies, music
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