iPod Culture: The Toxic Pleasures of Audiotopia

Michael Bull

in The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780195388947
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

iPod Culture: The Toxic Pleasures of Audiotopia

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  • Music
  • Sound Studies
  • Applied Music



The study of iPod use throws light on users' attitudes toward public places, others, and their own cognitive management of experience. This article analyzes the nature of the pleasures of auditory toxicity, which goes beyond the proprioceptive into the nature of the social world and the communication technologies. In doing so it recognizes that iPod use should not be divorced from a range of other media and communication technologies habitually made use of. The intense sonic immersion embodied in iPod use itself contains elements of both toxicity and creativity. This duality of use produces its own paradoxes, since people blast music in their ears to derive pleasure, and yet yearn for control, peace and quiet. Thus lies the paradox of toxic audiotopias: sound produces silence, connectivity produces separation, and mediated toxicity produces control. Finally, the article suggests that iPods are just one element of the changing sound matrix of contemporary culture.

Keywords: iPod; auditory toxicity; social world; communication technologies; audiotopia; sound matrix

Article.  8158 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Sound Studies ; Applied Music

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