The Creative Listeners and Their iPods: Their Music, Their Activities and Their Listening Experiences


Session Title:

  • Media and Contemporary Practices of Sound Art

Presentation Title:

  • The Creative Listeners and Their iPods: Their Music, Their Activities and Their Listening Experiences




  • The iPod and other mp3-players have now usurped other technologies as the device of choice for portable music listening. In fact, the iPod (as a brand) is almost a synonymous term for mp3-player [Abel, 2008]. Not only is listening to the iPod becoming ubiquitous, people’s listening experience has been dramatically transformed by being able to potentially access one’s entire digital music collection whilst listening on-the-move.

    Most research of the iPod centers on how it could be used in various instrumental settings such as education [Miller & Piller, 2005]or its commercial success of the iPod [Reppel et al., 2006].  Others examine how iPod listening affords ability to create private auditory spaces and means to withdraw from public space [Bull, 2005, 2007]. However we argue that there is much more about digital music listening practices that is unexplored, especially people’s listening experiences when listening occurs within the heterogeneity of people’s quotidian lives.

    We suggest that people’s iPod listening and their interactions with the iTunes management software result in experiences that are suffused with emotional, physical and social potential. Listeners can use music explicitly and tacitly in different situations in order to manage, enhance or facilitate different situations, affective states, processes or activities. In part, this is informed by listeners’ complex understanding of musical genre and style in their collection – an understanding cultivated through past personal or social experiences with music in different situations.

    Our paper will first briefly survey existing literature on iPod digital music listening experience. This will serve as a point of departure for our empirical findings where we surface how this technology can influence how, why, when and where people listen in their quotidian lives. We will focus on the following themes connected to the iPod listening: Listening as a mundane activity, listeners intervening to reconfigure their listening experience and the affordances of the iPod technology. Finally this paper offers a perspective in discussing what music means to iPod users on an everyday basis.

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