Attack of the Pod People?

I just read a short piece by Andrew Sullivan called iPod World: The End of Society?

In this article, Sullivan contends that technology is fundamentally changing (and limiting) the way people interact with one another in a negative way.

[quote=“Andrew Sullivan”]
[b]Americans are beginning to narrowcast their own lives. You get your news from your favorite blogs, the ones that won’t challenge your own view of the world. You tune into a paid satellite radio service that also aims directly at a small market - for New Age fanatics, or liberal talk, or Christian rock. Television is all cable. Culure is all subculture. Your cell-phones can receive email feeds of your favorite blogger’s latest thoughts - seconds after he has posted them - or sports scores for your own team, or stock quotes of just your portfolio. Technology has given us finally a universe entirely for ourselves - where the serendipity of meeting a new stranger, or hearing a piece of music we would never choose for ourselves, or an opinion that might actually force us to change our mind about something are all effectively banished. Atomization by little white boxes and cell-phones. Society without the social. Others who are chosen - not met at random.

Human beings have never lived like this before.[/b][/quote]

I would be interested to hear people

I like Andrew Sullivan’s writings very much as a rule, but I think he’s scaremongering here – I remember walking around with a transistor radio pressed to my ear as a kid, and later the Walkman. I got my news from the newspaper, chosen because it suited my political leanings at the time, so I could be sure it wouldn’t challenge my views of the world.
I don’t have an ipod (in fact I had to Google just now to see what it actually is) and thanks to the Internet I have at my fingertips a vast world of news sources, many of which challenge my world view every day.
And bloggers as news? Please! Andrew Sullivan’s blog is often compelling reading and certainly one of the best I’ve seen, but sorry to burst your bubble, laddie. I get my news from journalists – I read the Taipei Times, after all.

Oh yes, Mike Lee’s Sports section! :wink:

And then there’s all that illegal file-sharing introducing people to music they wouldn’t normally go out and buy, instead of listening to radio stations which are paid to promote music I would never go out and buy.

Of course, my perspective is that of someone who doesn’t actually have a social life. I just sit here in front of my screen making the acquaintance of people I would not normally bother to speak to on the street, whether or not I was wearing my 'phones. And then, socially inept victim of technology that I am, I have to go out occasionally and interact with them in person. Have you been to those happy hour things? A perfect example of technology destroying human relationships.

I think the danger of technology is that it potentially can overwhelm us with unwanted new experiences. I get sick of people sending me links to news stories they found funny or interesting, people telling me to check something out, updates about things that I’ve expressed an interest in and am now deemed to be totally obsessed with. It provides a permanent channel that anyone can use to bombard us with their message.

While we’re on the subject, can someone do something about those advertising screens in the MRT? And TVs in pubs too. I don’t want to go through life looking at whatever commercial message someone else wants to show me. I want to spend my social time with people, not watching something on a screen.

I agree wholeheartedly with your 1. He tends to understate/omit the benefits of specialization. Strangely I saw nothing about being openminded. There were of course little clues, like overhearing things around you, but is there not a difference between a person(closeminded) who is “tuned into the world” and will not see anything anyway but his own way and a person(openminded) while in their “own world” will at least think and consider another’s ideas.

It fails to differentiate between specialties and how they interact. Just because you only see one point of view does not mean you will not work with someone from an opposing view or share information with them. I may be a very useless person, but I know how to work to my strengths and use the strengths of others to our mutual benefit despite obvious bitterly opposing viewpoints.

Fails to take into consideration the benefits of such technology to broaden ideas and appreciation of the differences of others. Ever see a white guy who didn’t understand Japanese listen to a Japanese girl band because he liked the rhythm? I have. How many more cross cultural interactions can be forged by the use of an ipod, i.e. lectures about subjects of passing interest or recommended by a friend, fellow traveller or overheard in a restaurant.

Technology has greatly benefitted humanity in ways that aren’t properly explained and reinforces capitalism, an imperfect idea in great need of defense. … id=3742817

I also believe that community boards like Forumosa will become a facet in peoples lives as they live near large urban centers with imperfect means of finding goods and services in their native language or because of lack of means. For example, How many Taiuwanese do you know that can and do use the yellow pages in Taiwan, something that I can really not do without. How well could you really find anything in Taipei without Forumosa? You would have to rely on someone telling you about it, seeing it on the street, in a newspaper, or use of a telephone book.


I think this is all just another case of a blogger overestimating the importance of blogging to the world at large. He means nothing, blogs mean nothing, and this so-called atomization and specialization mean nothing. Blogging and shit is just a hyped up nonsense fad - wow, people using the Internet to post their ideas? Shit, that never happened before! And as for bloggers trying to pass themselves off as an arm of journalism, well, they can kiss my arse. If they’re journalists, so am I. If having an opinion and making it known is all that is required to make one a journalist, then everyone’s a journalist. And the atomization thing has been going on since the dawn of human society - we’ve always hung out with those that tend to agree with us, or disagree in a way we can handle; we listen to radio stations, watch TV, read newspapers, buy books that don’t offend our positions, or at most challenge them in ways we can handle.

Basically it sounds like he’s being a typical self-important blogger to me, hyping up the importance and impact of technology on society when the only difference between before and now is the addition of one more medium.

The article is flawed. The article is full of wrong assumptions. There are wrong assertions. He said, “External stimulation can crowd out the interior mind,” but that’s not what happened with him. He was in ipod withdrawal and so he lashed out with a puerile response that is full of adolescent anxiety.

The world is becoming closer, not farther. We are getting more of what we want and less random distractions. The ipods and internet don’t insulate us from random occurences, they provide more meaning and closeness in our lives. Finally, the religious overtones of the ipod drama is a silly theme.

There’s a new kind of ipod party. People bring their ipods and plug it in to the stereo system at the bar for 15 minutes each. The ipod is bringing a personal touch to these parties.

People have something to talk about. Everyone has an ipod, so random encounters between ipod owners must be fairly commonplace.

If you really want to see the negative effects of ipod, then look no further:

[quote=“”] Brad Pulaski had died of blunt trauma to the head after being repeatedly bludgeoned with an iPod, a popular MP3 player produced by Apple.

Police said no motive has been confirmed, although evidence suggested the murder was the result of a domestic dispute after Pulaski erased the contents of Mathers

I love tech anything, but I’ll never understand the addiction the world is having to this glorified MP3 player. This is just an updated version of making tapes in your double-deck stereo and listening to them on your walkman. Big deal.

Well, its quite an update.

My iPod is just over half full and so far I have 17.2 days worth of music, including 45 complete Grateful Dead concert recordings on it.

Try doing that with a walkman.

Well, its quite an update.

My iPod is just over half full and so far I have 17.2 days worth of music, including 45 complete Grateful Dead concert recordings on it.

Try doing that with a walkman.[/quote]

On your recommendation, whaddya think of these Dick’s Picks?

Dick’s Picks - for Gratetful Dead recordings - are featured on iMusic [edit: iTunes, that is - but, hold on, actually I saw them at Amazon, not Apple’s web site] and seem to be not only of high quality but of excellent value.

What’s your opinion, tm?

Well, its quite an update.

My iPod is just over half full and so far I have 17.2 days worth of music, including 45 complete Grateful Dead concert recordings on it.

Try doing that with a walkman.[/quote]

I think my problem is that I would fill my ipod with everything I have to listen to, and then lose the damn thing somewhere.

I can’t speak for Tigerman’s Dead recordings, but anything you buy from iTunes stays on a separate server as well. In other words, if you buy music from iTunes but lose your iPod, then you can simply buy another. When you connect it to iTunes, it refills with all the music you’ve already bought.

It’s as if Jobs, noting what Bill Gates did with Apple’s OS a decade and a half ago (stole it legally), is bent on redoing the past and is determined to use another gadget to reorder an industry, the music industry, in the same way that Gates reordered the PC industry with his vastly improved (by theft from Apple) MS OS. The key difference being, of course, that in both cases Jobs and his people were the true source of innovation. I heard on the radio the other day that the iPod has seriously damaged Sony’s revenue, of all companies.

I really like my iPod, but I find that the whole iTunes experience grates against my instincts. I just seem to know in my bones that I’m going to pay for this someday, in some way that, I fear, can only add to the original cost of my iPod.

I just have to say:
THANK GOD FOR MY IPOD! :notworthy:
If not for my ipod, i’ll be travelling an hour to work and an hour after work and getting more and more ticked off each second by the constant pushing shoving crowd. :fume:
The ipod keeps me from overloading and at least distracted enough to not mind the normal Taiwan rush hour experience. God I hate this crowd. Commute is such a pain!

Ok, I’m done ranting now.

[quote=“kellohitty”]The ipod keeps me from overloading and at least distracted enough to not mind the normal Taiwan rush hour experience. God I hate this crowd. Commute is such a pain!
[color=red][kellohitty, Location: Taipei Main Station][/color][/quote]

Well at least you live at the train station. That has to make your commute at least a little easier… :wink:

on another note…

Thanks for all the great replies, people. Sounds like the consensus from most Forumosans is fairly similar to mine: that while the iPod (and other digital media advances more broadly) may have certain downsides, on balance, the benefits outweigh the harms, both to the individual and to society.

(I’m an iPod user also, btw, and am particularly fond of free lectures, speeches and other spoken word mp3s on everything from science to pop culture to economics, history or politics. – So any PMs with links where I can download these kinds of things would certainly be appreciated! :slight_smile: )

Will the term “iPod” become the generic term for a HDD based MP3 player? Like “walkman” or “discman” is used for virtually any personal tape or CD unit? I wonder what Sony will come up with: “iMan”?

I checked out an iRiver in the weekend. $9900 for a 5gb unit with FM and color screen. Is this a better deal than an iPod mini? Nice unit.



(I’m an iPod user also, btw, and am particularly fond of free lectures, speeches and other spoken word mp3s on everything from science to pop culture to economics, history or politics. – So any PMs with links where I can download these kinds of things would certainly be appreciated! :slight_smile: )[/quote]

I just like to add that having just listned to that Michael Ignatieff lecture you posted a while back, I can say that I really enjoyed it. Please include me on any PMs to Hobbes (if he doesn’t mind) re the lecture downloads etc. Perhaps if there are enough we can get a thread somewhere. Any of you who haven’t listed to the ignatieff stuff and would like to, search for the name in the IP forum. Very good stuff. cheers Mr Hobbes.

Thanks, butcher boy. In case you (or others) are interested, I am planning to post a couple more free lectures/debates in mp3 form on the IP Forum later today. One will be an introductory lecture on the Austrian school of economics, and one is a debate on the political/economic/legal issue of Eminent Domain.

Also, since I could not decide where else to post these (they aren’t really “Arts&Entertainment”, not really “Technology”) below are

Two Lectures on Modern Physics and String Theory

Lecture 1: Ed Witten on modern physics and supersymmetry
Comments: Witten is often called the most worthy successor to Einstein as the world’s most insightful physicist. Some even say he is the most brilliant physicist ever. He has also won a Fields Medal in mathematics (ask Richardm – this is a big deal). But he is very soft-spoken and generally does a good job of presenting his ideas to a lay audience. (Proof: Even a remedial math/science student like Mr. Hobbes was able to get something out of his talk – even if I didn’t understand all of it.)

Lecture 2: David Gross on String Theory
Comments: Gross just won the Nobel Prize in physics last year (it was after he gave this talk). For me, he is another example of someone at the top of his field who does a respectable job of making his ideas accessible to duffers like me.

As I mentioned before, I generally just load these things into the ol’ iPod and listen to them on the bus or at lunch or something. But if anyone is really into this stuff then you might also want to download the transparancy lecture slides from Witten and Gross that go along with their talk.

After reading the article, I had a different reaction than most posters here. I thought that, overall, his points were on target. To take his points to the conclusion that the iPod spells the end of civilization or some such nonsense is of course farfetched and absurd.

When cell phones first became popular, I remember watching some people use them in a cafe. Two people were sitting together and one of them was talking on a cell phone. The other person was just looking around, trying to figure out what to do now that he wasn’t part of the conversation happening at his own table with his own lunch partner. On the MRT, you see it all the time, people sitting next to each other, all on cell phones, talking to someone else. Many people who don’t seem to be where they actually are, but instead, always using devices to be somewhere else.

There are good and positive uses for all of this technology. I’ve added an MP3 player to my MRT commute and it really helps sometimes. That said, I can definitely see the insular and exclusionary behavior that he’s taking about and have also noticed it as a trend.


There are generalists, but they are few and far between. Just ignore the whining about pod people. Being a pod person just means having a clear identity. What’s wrong with that?