[ISEA2011] Paper: Nina Gram & Tuck Leong – The creative listeners and their iPods: their music, their activities and their listening experiences


The iPod and other mp3-players have now usurped other technologies as the device of choice for portable music listening. In fact, the iPod (as a brand) is almost a synonymous term for mp3-player [Abel, 2008]. Not only is listening to the iPod becoming ubiquitous, people’s listening experience has been dramatically transformed by being able to potentially access one’s entire digital music collection whilst listening on-the-move.

Most research of the iPod centers on how it could be used in various instrumental settings such as education [Miller & Piller, 2005]or its commercial success of the iPod [Reppel et al., 2006].  Others examine how iPod listening affords ability to create private auditory spaces and means to withdraw from public space [Bull, 2005, 2007]. However we argue that there is much more about digital music listening practices that is unexplored, especially people’s listening experiences when listening occurs within the heterogeneity of people’s quotidian lives.

We suggest that people’s iPod listening and their interactions with the iTunes management software result in experiences that are suffused with emotional, physical and social potential. Listeners can use music explicitly and tacitly in different situations in order to manage, enhance or facilitate different situations, affective states, processes or activities. In part, this is informed by listeners’ complex understanding of musical genre and style in their collection – an understanding cultivated through past personal or social experiences with music in different situations.

Our paper will first briefly survey existing literature on iPod digital music listening experience. This will serve as a point of departure for our empirical findings where we surface how this technology can influence how, why, when and where people listen in their quotidian lives. We will focus on the following themes connected to the iPod listening: Listening as a mundane activity, listeners intervening to reconfigure their listening experience and the affordances of the iPod technology. Finally this paper offers a perspective in discussing what music means to iPod users on an everyday basis.

  • Nina Gram, Department of Aesthetics and Communication, University of AarhusNina Gram’s Ph.D. project Sound Mobilisation in Urban Space focuses on the connection between sound and urban experience by examining the mobilizing abilities of the mobile sounds. Her interest is both on the sounds as such and their alleged ability to emotionally, spiritually and perhaps even physically move the listener, as well as on possible consequences created by the increasing use of mobile sound media in public space. The project is based on empirical data such as personal registrations, interviews with users of mobile sound media and the production of an iPod film portraying a bike ride through a city while listening to music. Nina is part of the research group Audio Visual Culture which examines the relation between (and the notion of) ‘the good sound’ and ‘the good experience from different perspectives’.  ak.au.dk/en    au.academia.edu/NinaGram
  • Dr. Tuck Leong is a Senior Research Associate with the Social Inclusion and the Digital Economy (SiDE) hub at Newcastle University, United Kingdom. Designed in Malaysia and subsequently exported to Melbourne, Australia, Tuck’s background spans immunology, music, languages, multimedia and interaction design. His interest in technology is primarily focused upon understanding how people use, interact with, and in turn experience and make sense of their technology use. Tuck has published widely on aspects of randomness and how it could inform designs for user-experience. This is part of his deep interest in people’s experience of serendipity when interacting with digital media. Theorising this experience, he identified its key dimensions which leads to ideas of how we might design technologies which allow us to experience serendipity positively. With expertise and interests in qualitative research methods, participatory design, theory and methods for experience-centred design, Tuck is currently engaged in exploring the notion of Participation in design activities and in particular when designing for Human Values. Building upon his previous work with the Digital Urban Living group at Aarhus University, Denmark, he hopes to bring together the traditions of ethnography and participatory design to build a more robust understanding of how we can best design through participation and with human values.   linkedin.com/in/tuleong/?locale=de_DE

Full text (PDF) p. 1510-1516