Aural Addictions: New Article about Mobile Music Players by Kathleen Ferguson

“Aural addictions” by Kathleen Ferguson. In “Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies” Volume 22 Issue 1 February 2008 , pages 69 – 77. See

Some ideas form a first quick reading of “Aural addictions”. Ferguson provides a critical discussion of key readings around personal stereos/Walkman/mp3 players, bringing to the field her own observations and a focus on bodies and materiality:

‘I’d like to review briefly some of the key moments in the personal stereo’s critical presence, before introducing a note of dissent into more recent approaches which see the latest permutations of the personal stereo as simply another step in a technological evolution. My argument is premised on the sense that there are substantive differences, both in terms of the material and the social consumption of digital media players that cuts them adrift from the literature that defined their formal predecessors.’ (p69)

Drawing on Williamson, Hosokawa, Bull, Chambers, Chow, Connor, du Gay/Hall et al and others, Ferguson opens up a space between Walkman and mp3 players that is a space between chance and choice, also opening up the debate to public space, civic engagement and the materiality of the devices.

I particularly like how Ferguson uses her observation of the absence of humming from most people’s mobile listening experience, using Lingis to talk about the pleasures of humming and the embarrassment of being caught humming. She observes ‘just how partial we may have become to the lure of music-as-database, when even our ability to entertain ourselves in the semi-aware state of humming is the poorer option to the technology of abundant choice.’ (p73).

Ferguson returns to the focus on bodies via the example of humming in her conclusion:

‘Still, the muffled humming voice will not be completely silenced for me; I wonder whether this might also be part of the process—not simply to become critical consumers of the language of the commodity but also to reinstate the role of our own bodies in the making and appreciation of music.’ (p76).

Ferguson also published:

Ferguson, Kathleen (2006), ‘ The Anti-Pod: After Michael Bull’s “Iconic Designs: the Apple iPod”‘, Senses & Society, 1 (3), 359-65.


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