The Null Device

iTunes and the electronic lek

One could probably coin a corollary to Gibson's Law ("the street finds its own uses for things") stating that any technology that communicates anything about its users will become primarily a means of asserting social identity. This seems to be happening with shared iTunes playlists, which are becoming an indicator of status and position in the hip-daggy spectrum:
On college campuses, for example, a new form of bigotry called "playlistism" is emerging... Playlistism, Aubrey explained, is discrimination based not on race, sex or religion, but on someone's terrible taste in music, as revealed by their iTunes music library.

(well, duh!)

Students are starting to realize they must manage their music collections, or at least prune them, to maintain their image, Aubrey said. He confessed to deleting a lot of stuff himself. "I had a lot of show tunes I had to get rid of," he said. "And a lot of punk pop from my earlier days like Green Day and Blink-182."
As well as trimming their music collections, some students are enhancing them, but not always subtly. Aubrey said the campus' resident jazz expert complains that any jazz he talks about instantly shows up on his fellow students' playlists. "He tells them about something he just heard and then all the pseudo jazz kids have it," Aubrey said. "A lot of people try to be cooler than they are through their playlist. I think people are trying to figure out what is trendy and popular by looking at what's on playlists of people who are cool, and then emulate that."

That's not really a new phenomenon; it shows up everywhere, from teenaged mooks professing to be into the Sex Pistols or Sisters of Mercy because it makes them more authentically "punk" or "goth" or whatever, to hipsters getting into a band because of what it signifies, even if the band is mediocre at best (until the backlash starts, and the last one not to have dumped their Licorice Comfits MP3s has egg on their face, even if they did have one or two good songs). In fact, I wonder what proportion of recorded music is "consumed" for the status is signifies rather than its actual quality; I suspect it's a large one.

There are 2 comments on "iTunes and the electronic lek":

Posted by: Graham Thu Nov 13 00:09:00 2003

This isn't an Onion article?!

Posted by: dj Thu Nov 13 03:53:03 2003

Heh. See, if you've got a good memory, all you have to do is read a few reviews and mention the right names in the right circles.....