Advancements in technology continue to change the social and cultural landscape since the last couple of decades, aside from changing the way people communicate with one another. Together with these changes are modifications on popular culture, where instead of appreciating forms of entertainment as a group, listening and music appreciation has become an individualized activity. As such, people are more likely to enjoy television, music, plays, and similar leisure activities differently as how audiences in the past did (Sternheimer, 2011). The iPod is one of the technological marvels of this time that has greatly changed the social and cultural scene of music industry.
Historically, the iPod was not the first MP3 player, but Apple has perfected the technology that, in time, those ahead in the business became the "followers" of how Steve Jobs conceptualized digital music to be (Costello, 2009). If in the past, one has to purchase a CD player and bring along CDs containing his or her favorite music, the iPod changed all that by allowing 1,000 songs stored in a small piece of equipment that fits just right inside a jean's pocket (Costello, 2009). Being a portable media player, other forms of mobile players such as the Kindle, DVD players, personal digital assistants (PDA), and smartphones, among others, patterned their upgrades to what the iPod has become.
Music, therefore, has become accessible to more people through the iPod, which enabled different cultures and nationalities to enjoy and appreciate another culture's music (Kanter, n.d.). It has reached various types of audiences with different tastes in music and has generated varied reactions and interpretations on how a particular song or melody has touched them. Culturally, the iPod introduces individuals to various types of musical genres that are not mainstream, but are rather more on the experimental type of musical expression. In this sense, listeners began to expand their choices and tastes in music giving them a wider and more global view of music.
This has helped individuals on the social field as well. Because music is widely regarded as a unifying factor for people of different races and ethnicity, the iPod allows for social bonding among people (Sternheimer, 2011) as they share common interests despite not having deep relationships among each other. For instance, an individual who travels to the United States will not have any difficulty assimilating the American music considering that most American singers are popular all over the world (Worsham, n.d.). What music and songs are stored in one's iPod could even be a topic of conversation among strangers. Because of such changes, the iPod has helped bridge cultural and social divide, thus, people learn to be more accepting and appreciative of other people.
In addition, those individuals who value their privacy so much now have a chance to play their preferred music options, be it political, classical, or religious, and in whatever volume they want without offending other people's sensitivities (Worsham, n.d.).
Despite having explicit gains on the use of iPods, it also comes with a couple of disadvantages for the individual. The most prominent of all is how individuals lose a sense of community with other music lovers, as they tend to appreciate music in isolation that social experts refer to as "solitary hyper-listening" (Saval, 2011). Those who appreciate this form of listening claimed "feeling alone in their passion for music [as they believed that] listening was individual" (Cavicchi, 2011), thus, music appreciation cannot be shared with anyone else.
Some become anti-socials, thus, they tend to "zone out" and prefer to spend time alone instead of interacting with peers or colleagues. In effect, those individuals who are born shy will remain distanced and aloof, and may not even learn the art of dealing or communicating with other people. At this continued state, it is inevitable that individuals could suffer from fits of depression and seclusion.
With so many songs that may be stored in an iPod, some owners may also feel that human interaction is no longer necessary considering that the gadget offers various forms of entertainment that can be enjoyed alone (Sternheimer, 2011). This behavior could give rise to a culture where people do not care about another individual or worse, develop a false sense of caring and connectivity with others.
What is ironic is though the iPod has brought people together, it is also a contributory factor to people distancing from one another. Case in point is during long commutes to and from school or work, where mostly, those riding in buses or trains are using their iPods instead of communicating with each other. While some people may regard this as a personal privacy issue, one cannot turn a blind eye on its possible effects on other individuals (Worsham, n.d.).
While the iPod has brought positive technological changes to the social and cultural setting of the music industry, alongside the positives come the negatives brought about by the technological change. People may contest that the iPod decreases social interaction, but it is evident with the number of people who owns an iPod and use it while in the presence of peers and colleagues, that not everyone actually give 100% of their focus to what other people are saying (Costello, 2009). The iPod may not have been a great influence socially in terms of developing deeper relationships, but culturally, it has done a great job of uniting people of various races, ethnicity, and musical preference, among others.
Cavicchi, D. (2011). iPod culture and the history of listening. Retrieved from http://theardentaudience.blogspot.com/2011/04/ipod-culture-and-history-of-listening.html
Costello, S. (2009). How Apple transformed music and our lives. Retrieved from http://ipod.about.com/od/glossary/a/how-apple-changed-music.htm
Kanter, H. (n.d.) Societal effects of the iPod. Retrieved from http://ipod.about.com/od/glossary/a/how-apple-changed-music.htm
Saval, N. (2011). Wall of sound. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2011/03/wall_of_sound.html
Sternheimer, K. (2011). Social change, popular culture and social cohesion. Retrieved from http://www.everydaysociologyblog.com/2011/06/social-change-popular-culture-and-social-cohesion.html
Worsham, R. (n.d.). Positive effects of iPod. Retrieved from http://www.ehow.com/list_7342912_positive-effects-ipods.html