Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I, You, We: iPod---Thoughts on Miniaturization

The Constructive Curmudgeon has tentatively entered postmodernity (but he remains an alient to postmodern-ism, of course.) I just loaded an iPod shuffle (the least of the iPods), which I won about six months ago at a Safeway. (I gave it some time.) This tiny device is filled with Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsallis, Kenny Garrett, and Joe Satriani.

Many years ago, a writer by the name of Paulo Soleri wrote that a key element of technological society was miniaturization. Think of this: first, a huge radio that took up half of a wall (which was added to, or replaced, the piano). The family still gathered round. Then a smaller model; later with a photograph. Smaller stereos and boom boxes arrived in time. Later came transistor radios and their one earpiece. Walkmen followed, isolating us sonically and giving us more preferences. Then diskman. Now iPods are ubiquitous: tiny, data-packed, with no headphones (too bulky, too big), but ear buds. (Ear Buds sounds somewhat cyborg-ish to me.)

TVs are shrinking (in cellphone and on computer screens) and growing (flat screen, plasma screen, take-up-half-the-wall-and-dominate-the-living space). Are we getting smaller as our technologies (particularly those for entertainment) decrease in size? Exegete this miniaturization considered as a social force in entertainment and tell me what you think.

13 comments:

Ken Click said...

Somehow Joe Satriani seems out of place.
A little spice?

Brian said...

We are definitely becoming more entrenched in our dependence on (or slavery to) entertainment. We used to have to go somewhere to be entertained, but now our entertainment goes with us. I taught high school for a couple years and was amazed at 1) how ubiquitous cell phones and and iPods were, and 2)how much these kids reflected popular media (specifically music and movies) in their dress and attitude.

I'm afraid that future generations are going to make their life's goal being entertained. And though many people have lived for entertainment in the past, it hasn't been as easy as it's going to be in the coming years.

hobie said...

A slightly different question: What place should recorded music play in the life of the appreciation of music? Sonny Rollins has always viewed recordings as advertisements for his concerts, where the real experience of music occurs for him. I think there's something to this; I think we need to attribute greater value to the act of experiencing live music with a community of people, dismissing our solitude, hearing the same magic at the same moment, in the moment.

I love being able to listen to what I want, when I want, but I do this with an awareness of what I've bartered.

Milehimama said...

I always thought miniaturization was a conspiracy by the corporations in order to maximize sales. As cell phones, MP3's, etc. get smaller and smaller, they will sell more 'replacements' as people lose them and the dog eats them.

Maybe I'm just paranoid.

Joe Satriani doesn't seem out of place in the shuffle of someone who enjoys superb instrumentalists.

The Gyrovague said...

I just got an iPod for my birthday and I love it. I do believe though it is a greater sign of our social isolation. As things get smaller and more personalized, as you point out, they will become more individualized and disconnected. I believe an iPod for people like you and I are fine because we can weigh the cost. Children can not and do not usually.

something I want to instill in my son is the courage to ask the question "but at what cost" when dealing with technology and life decisions. Most parents are not teaching this at the childs peril.

Paul D. Adams said...

Interesting on the social isolation remark. When in Hungary (recently coming out of communism/socialism circa early '90s) I noticed everyone, young and elderly, wearing some kind of MP3 device around their necks and disengaged from everyone around them. I consciously made an effort to make eye contact and greet most whom I encountered. It was not easy getting some kind of response.

Then again, it is nice to retreat into a useful environment when the one that exists is less than pleasant (Doctor's offices, Walmart, heavy traffic, etc.) using these small techno marvels. I've Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, multiple Veritas forum lectures, in addition to Miles, Coltrane, Jim Hall, Metheny, etc. on my HisPod (oops...did I say that right?)

Ed said...

You have your iPod filled with great jazz, while I had mine filled (until I finished listening to them) with 43 Groothuis lectures on apologetics!

ChrisB said...

When my wife first got an mp3 player, she sat beside me in the car with her earbuds in, and I started getting twitchy.

We already had a DVD player for the kids to use on long road trips, then my wife added her own personal entertainment. The community experience was shattered.

At present the kids still watch tv on our long road trips (in-laws live 1000 miles away), but we all listen to the same radio stations -- and talk and joke and examine odd billboards, just like it ought to be.

Aaron said...

Why do my colleagues look askance at me when the church I serve gets smaller?

It seems the iChurch Shuffle is the order of the day!

Douglas Groothuis said...

There are many good comment here.

I could barely hear the iPod on the plane. The background noise was too loud. I was sitting next to a fascinating person from Chicago to London, a pastor and adjunct at Denver Seminary, who was on his way to Kurdistan to teach theology. May God bless him.

Everyone in Eger seems to be talking on cell phones, not just the Americans here for the conference.

Chris G said...

As technology shrinks, there seems to be a direct correlation between this reduction and young people's vocabulary, attention span and girls clothing. Has anyone else noticed this? However, in boldly hypocritical fashion, I refuse to give up my MP3. I'll give up my Dell notebook and cellphone, though.

Yossman said...

I've noticed that some people are using the iPod - that prime idol of entertainment technology - in a subversive manner: they listen to lectures, use it to sharpen their thinking and to get acquainted with the thoughts of the great Christian thinkers while pretending to be part of this superficial, individualistic culture.

So far I myself have listened to a good number of lectures by Groothuis, Os Guiness, Schaeffer, W.L. Craig and others while designing for an advertising company.

Also one can easily use the iPod with a handy extension called iTalk (by Griffin technologies I think) to record lectures. I use it during my Bible lessons (lectures, sermons) and make them available on my website afterwards.

Let's all use these new technologies as tools for subversion! ...and listen to Metheny on the side ;-)

Benjamin Ho said...

Hi Dr Groothius, I enjoyed reading your book Truth Decay some time ago. In any case, Jacques Ellul had already warned us of the ambivalence of technology. I would personally argue that we are entering into the age of "technological modernity" - where more and "latest" technology is increasingly seen to be the solution to many social problems... perhaps the root problem is much more organic and close to the human heart.