Monday, August 16, 2010

'Sodcasting' and sociability

Good article by Dan Hancox in the Guardian last week on 'sodcasting' (as its critics have termed it)- playing music aloud on mobile phones in parks, buses and other public spaces:

"The way teenagers use their mobile phones may annoy the hell out of anyone older than 15, but their seemingly obnoxious desire to play music in public needs explaining. To some, sodcasting might seem like a bloody-minded imposition, a two-fingers from those who don't care what others think of them. To the teenagers, though they probably wouldn't put it quite like this, it's a resocialisation of public life through the collective enjoyment of music; it's friends doing the most natural thing imaginable – sharing what makes them happy".

The article, Mobile disco: how phones make music inescapable, also includes comments from Wayne Marshall (wayneandwax):

'Nor, contrary to popular belief, is it an especially recent phenomenon, says the American anthropologist and musicologist Wayne Marshall, who is currently researching what he calls "treble culture". "Sodcasting could fit into a time-honoured tradition of playing music in public as surely as reggae sound systems or the drums of Congo Square, never mind their antecedents," he says. "Transistor radios and ghetto blasters are both good examples of a longstanding history of people making music mobile. The case of the transistor radio shows that people have long been willing to sacrifice fidelity to portability; while the ghetto blaster reminds us that defiantly and ostentatiously broadcasting one's music in public is part of a history of sonically contesting spaces and drawing the lines of community, especially through what gets coded as 'noise'."

Interesting to compare this with the pessimism that greeted the arrival of the first generation of minituarised listening devices in the 1980s (the Sony Walkman etc.). For critics like Judith Williamson they seemed to herald a new era of atomised individualism, whereas arguably here we have the opposite - the use of mobile phones to share music in social interaction.

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