February 23, 2004

On Becoming a Micro DJ
My iPod with Wifi

It’s Friday afternoon. The weekend beckons after a long five days. Major Web site redesign almost ready for launch. Me: on the subway home with thoughts of a mellow Chardonnay nestled sweetly in a Reidel crystal glass. I’m listening to Pink as my antidote du jour for today’s non-stop link checking on the redesign. I’m boppin’ my head nonchalantly to the beat, oblivious to the rest of the world.

Just off to the right I notice someone moving his head to my beat. It’s sort of like being in the left turn lane and seeing the car-in-front-of-you’s turn indicator click to the same meter as yours. You wait for them to go out of sync. I wait for his head to miss. It doesn’t. I watch. It’s been five minutes and we’re still together.

Both of us are lost in our own secluded worlds. But what if iPods came with built in WiFi —not just to download music to our stereos but with the ability to receive and broadcast other people’s playlists? Not file sharing but music sharing. We could become our own mobile and micro DJs. Why limit our rotations to what we’ve downloaded to our units. Why not share them with others as they pass near us on our daily commute.

The range wouldn’t have to be long. Envision a tuner where you could tune in and out people’s “shows” as you commute home or walk down a crowded urban street. Think of the Meetup and Smart Mob possibilities. Everyone converges on 28th Street and K. You know your group by in-sync bobbleheads.

• • •

Last week NY Times writer Warren St. John bemoaned the other worldliness of iPod owners cocooned in their personal playlists:

Idea for a sci-fi horror flick: New York is invaded by zombielike robots. They ghost along the sidewalks, oblivious of pedestrians, and have frequent near misses with taxis and cyclists, causing chaos. They carry a secret weapon —no bigger than a deck of cards— that can render humans invisible. The only sign they are not quite human themselves: two white wires that run from their ears into their clothes, just below the neckline, as distinctive as the bolts in the Frankenstein monster’s neck.No need to make the movie, of course. They’re already here: the iPod people.

It took me 15 years before I bought my first Walkman. Up to that point I thought they were anti-social instruments of cultural decay. People lost in their own world walking down my street. Hmmph.

But then I tried it. Just once, I thought, let me see what all the fuss is about. And it was heaven. Heaven. I felt like I was in my own film. And my music was my personal soundtrack. Walking across a busy intersection to Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Man, did my life change.

How quaint my early thoughts seem now. What with cell phones and their private conversations wafting through the air —my air— every day. Syncronized iPod zombies: now that’s decay at its best.

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