This column appears in Macworld and PC Advisor's jointly-published iPod User special issue. iPod User is a cross-platform guide for anyone who owns or plans to own an iPod or iPod mini.
iPod User – which will be available at news agents from June 24 – offers an easy-to-follow guide to using Apple's digital music player and the iTunes Music Store; 19-pages covering all the latest iPod accessories; a troubleshooting guide; a cover CD laden with handy software (Mac and Windows) and much more. You can order the first issue online now.
It's strange to know that one day I'll wake up to find myself watching some mass market popular culture show (when taking a break from Big Brother series 26) that's dedicated to life at the turn of this century.
To backing music provided by Peter Andre's Insania and scoop stories of the day including the collapse of the Bush and Blair governments and retrospective public outrage at the alleged corruption behind, well - you name it - the show will offer cute vignettes of the cultural moments and defining consumer objects of the time. Pot Noodle will still be in the game because, well, because it's just so, so "dirty". You'll see passionate reports of the suffering caused by collapsing economies following the massive post-Bush re-election oil price rise shock; sad human interest tales of those caught in public borrowing reducing interest rises: "I had to sell my second home as I couldn't keep up with the mortgage payments". And somewhere in this diabolic meltdown mix of mankind's millennial misery you'll see one shiny white device (about the size of a cigarette packet), and you'll hear all about a host of new cultural trends tomorrow's historians will associate with Apple's most successful device since its last successful device, the iPod.
They'll rerun old ITN reports filmed just outside that company's Central London offices in an attempt to keep the editorial budget lean (while ensuring good compensation for management and shareholders) showing life's rich humanity in the shape of a disparate gaggle of white earphone-clad commuters. They'll take a look at the subversive artwork appearing now all across the US based on Apple's award-winning Silhouette propaganda campaign (Go Google and search for iPod/iRaq – and they'll talk about Google's innovation-friendly corporate culture, too).
Remember flash-mobs? They will then: they'll remember the orchestrated arrival of 500 iPod-clad party-people at selected commuter stations, dancing with themselves to self-made Playlists in a two-fingered salute to the low-level frustration of the diaspora of working folk, (Wired's Cult of Mac).
Looking back, they'll talk about the moment DJs went digital (). From night clubs in New York and San Francisco, to Manchester's NoWax and North London's Playlist club they'll look at that defining cultural moment when DJ's stopped lugging crates of vinyl in favour of a small mixing desk and a pair of iPods (set to stun). They'll look at the new music revolution, as audience need shifted away from slavish addiction to specific genres toward slavish addiction to musical diversity.
"I remember my first time. It was amazing. The DJ had 20,000 tracks – one moment I was dancing to Fat Boy Slim (remember him?), the next I was shaking my body to Motown and Motorhead. I had never realised how many different musicians made me move," remembers a former Dirty-Den-fathered EastEnders actress in her trademark trans-Atlantic 'BBC Cockney'.
Changing norms in modern sex rituals make mass-market TV (and advertising spend) hum, so the hard-pressed editors writing tomorrow's chronicles of today will inevitably remember an odd Greenwich Village practice in which iPod-equipped strangers stop briefly and silently to swap their earphones across to listen to the other's chosen urban life soundtrack. "When we first met I though it was a shame he was listening to Will Young, but his long and slender fingers caressing his iPod's Touch Wheel made me think different". Then Prime Minister and former politics student Will Young won't be able to speak for the show, though "his people" are sure to watch that segment.
Phenomenal. Just like Sony's Walkman product defined its time, this digital music player will be remembered as an inflexion point capturing an age. iPod is at once a cultural insulator reflecting our increasing social isolation and a social enabler because its 'must-have' status to the cultural producers of today means the world's most creative people are actively using the device as a tool to break communication barriers. Art is a subversive activity that exists to transform the mundane, casting slivers of chaos at entropy's wheel.
Music has always been a two-headed beast – on the one hand it's a deeply personal activity; on the other it acts like tribal glue, bringing all those roving packets of individual catharsis together in gatherings at which the whole is mightier than the parts. Do you get me?
Music and mathematics go hand-in-hand, but while scientists assimilate the Chaos Theory concept; artists and musicians extend the discussion. And, all those years from now as you travel future-tech mass-transit which Playlist will you choose? Millennium Massive volume two? Now that's what I call Post-Modern volume 6 or the collection you made all by yourself?
That last task – the collection of songs from genres and artists across different ages – grows easier with the advent of digital music services like iTunes Music Store. And while I hesitate – I mean, logically I fail to understand how on Earth under the Sun and all its Planets this has happened to me – while I hate to end this quoting Cliff Richard, we are all, now, and possibly forever, (all of us, at least that are fortunately blessed with a broadband connection); All us who together comprise a rich infinity of DNA-carrying biological perception-vehicles, all of us, each and every pulsing blood-beat pound of experiential human flesh: "We are wired, we are wired for sound."