Yesterday I was contacted by a journalist about making some comments on the 30th anniversary of the release of the first SONY walkman. As I pondered what impact this specific technology has had on our media landscape from my readings and observations I ended up talking with him about three key factors or changes: Context, Individualization and Mobility.
First the walkman freed music listening from being engage with in a certain place or space, you could listen to music on the bus, while going for a jog as easily as sitting in front of a larger stereo system. This mean how we consume media has changed.
Second the walkman encouraged a new level of individualization, I can listen to my music when I want not matter what others around me are doing. This has marked a greater sense of empowerment in individuals being able to control the media messages they want to receive.
Third music consumption no longer became a static practice, it was now mobile. That means where media was consumed was freed to a new level. This also started a blurring of the public and private as media device allowed for personal engagement in public space. However, those individual, mobile practices have repercussions for the public. Early walkman were not necessarily personal as you could often hear the sounds being played seep through the head phones. Similar to how people get forced into transgressing the space of a private phone conversation when someone next to them is talking loudly into their cell phones.
So in my way of thinking the walkman in many ways set the stage for our new digital media landscape and media consumer current practices. It also raises some concerns of how our media devices are culturing human behavior.
For the official version of the story check out the interview online.