Audio is a most seductive medium. In 2004, when the IPOD was but a finicky, clicky-hard drived baby, New York Times reporter Warren St. John went to New York’s streets to chart what effect the device had on the urban landscape and the human relationships within. Were New Yorkers becoming as atomized, as isolated, as Californians were in their cars? Baristas and bagel bar owners were quoted lamenting that Ipod listeners were holding up the line, not hearing the cashier shout “Next!” New Yorkers love their imagined tribes, and one likened Ipod owners to one, identifiable only by those little white wires. Another tribal said the machine “makes him feel as though he is in his own music video.”
This last idea is the only one in the article that still seems relevant: somehow our bagel lines move smoothly again even if we’re all plugged in, but the idea of creating one’s own little cinemascape, audience of one, is stickier. The listener St. John quoted isn’t at all concerned by the idea of being in his own music video. It is rather an empowering, joyous thing, one any urban dweller who moves through the city freely and possesses such a device might relate to. Indeed, the idea that the Ipod might have a pernicious, or at least complicated side, struck Apple as “wacky” in St. John’s article ''it's a little wacky to look at it that way, when the iPod has brought so much happiness into people's lives.''
The social aspects of music enjoyment – at a concert or a club, or even through Ipods and mobile phones (Wayne Marshall's teenagers “clustered around a tinny piece of plastic broadcasting a trebly slice of the latest pop hit”), are recognized as important, or demonized, parts of the urban tapestry. There’s a lot being said about what this all means for the public space. Here though, I want to focus on the private space: that more intimate, profoundly antisocial relationship, between oneself, one’s music, and one’s earbuds. When you’re not sharing, when its just for you. What does it mean to be in one’s own music video?