Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pros and Cons of the iPod

Being a late adopter of the iPod, I’ve been having a lot of fun figuring out how to use it in the car without veering into oncoming traffic or running into the guard rail. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1) Don't expect the touch function to work when you're wearing gloves.
2) At night the thing lights up the entire car in a way similar to a cell phone, so keep it below the dashboard if you're not trying to advertise that you're using a portable electronic device while driving at top speed.
3) The novelty of shuffle wears off after five minutes.

Beyond the mechanics, I feel I’ve finally come to an understanding of the pod mentality. I shouldn’t be surprised to find it’s really it’s no different from the walkman mentality I grew up with, except that you never have to disconnect because you can’t stand listening to the same album for the fourteenth time. Instead you’re trucking around your whole music collection (well, almost…the Nano’s 8GB didn’t quite do it for me).

But the thing that's so great about the iPod is also troubling -- how do you ever get out of your pod, when you never have to? How are you ever exposed to something  new? 99 cents per track adds up merely for random experimentation. Here I am, already in a pod by sitting in my car alone, and now I want to cut off any local radio broadcasts and have a virtual pod around myself as well? Enter the podcast.

Podcasts are great. Actually, let me qualify that statement in the context of my commute:

Podcasts are great when they don't remind me of in-ear radio (see Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451).

Podcasts are great when they are long. Anything under 10 minutes makes me feel I'm pushing my luck for being an inattentive driver. And I'd probably hear it on the radio news anyways.

Podcasts are great when they don't take advantage of you being a captive audience, and instead of shamelessly advertising to you make a genuine effort to be interesting. I think this is why I've so far most appreciated podcasts found through National Public Radio (NPR) and American Public Media. Here I would suggest that I'm not being exposed to anything new in this way, but I've become obsessed with The Splendid Table, which my local public radio station doesn't broadcast.

So I'm going to fight what I'll call the "rigid pod model" with the "porous pod model" for a while and see how it works. (I'll try to avoid the video functions entirely until I have a chaffeur.) Currently I'm not a huge fan of wading through the podcasts on iTunes trying to find ones that meet my criteria, but I'm sure I'll cope. Or if there's anyone reading this with recommendations, I'd love to hear them...

1 comment:

  1. Someone is a step in front of me re: the ipod not exposing you to anything new:

    The Slacker - "your music without the work"
    And the music is free.

    Thanks to Walter Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal for pointing this out to me...