26 October 2006

I Am My iPod.

Actually, I must be nobody, because I ain't got one. But, on the subject of shopping-to-be and identity markers in a consumerist culture, here's Alan Jacobs reviewing a history of the iPod called The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness -

". . . Levy skillfully tells the story of the iPod's development, with any number of memorable anecdotes. My favorite: it was Levy who gave Bill Gates his first look at an iPod. Gates grabbed it and immediately tried every button in every combination. Says Levy, "I could almost hear the giant sucking sound." Eventually he handed it back to Levy and said, "It looks like a great product. It's only for Macintosh?" Along the way Levy explores various themes that seem to radiate from the little white box: the question of what makes something cool (Gates makes a return appearance here, insisting on a connection between coolness and market share—of course); how the Sony Walkman inaugurated the history of the portable music player; and, perhaps most intriguingly, why so many people see their iPod playlists as essential markers of their identity.
This tendency—mon iPod, c'est moi—is irrational, perhaps, but irresistible: having just noted the last ten songs played randomly by my own iPod, I am deeply disappointed to see one of U2's most famous songs there, and even a little annoyed that the Beck song it pulled up is one of his more accessible. I would feel much cooler if it had pulled out something by the Dirty Three, or Charlie Patton, or Yo La Tengo. But as things stand I feel ordinary. This little electronic gadget, like a pocket-sized Freudian analyst, has somehow revealed—worse, allowed me to reveal—my inauthenticity, as though its famously fingerprint-attracting polished metal back had lifted itself before my appalled face and cried, Behold!. . ."



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