I actually listened to some ‘albums’ this weekend. Remember that? Remember those?
The difference between listening to music via albums, and listening to your music as mp3s on an iPod, is like the difference between slowly enjoying a decent home-cooked meal and loading up your plate at a Vegas buffet. I’m not saying one is necessarily better than the other, and there can be some tasty stuff at buffets, but certainly too much of them can make you miss that home cooking if not send you to the restrooms. It had been awhile since I’d even tried to listen to an ‘album’, and I was struck by how relaxing it was. Also, I kept encountering songs that (paradoxically) I really like but which I know I would have skipped on an iPod. It felt like a gift to be able to slow down and enjoy those songs – as if the iPod doesn’t let me.
The key difference is that when listening to your iPod, there are always hundreds of other artists and songs you could switch to by pressing a button. Your finger’s always on that trigger. But once you’ve put a physical ‘album’ on (whether in record or tape or CD form), it takes that minimal amount of effort – not very much, but some – to switch the album. And usually this effort is sufficient to prevent you from doing it willy-nilly. This seems to be a case where having a near-infinite amount of choice changes the experience fundamentally. Our music listening habits are destined to become more and more “ADHD” oriented.
I am not a Luddite or anti-iPod by any means but there is something to be said for the idea that there can be too much choice.
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