Do iPods block out internal conversation?

This is a claim my supervisor has made from time to time. It’s one I’ve tended to be rather sceptical of but it came to mind earlier when I was walking home, with no music as a result of having forgotten to pickup headphones when I left the house. To say that listening to music on headphones ‘blocks out internal conversation’ is not to suggest that we cease thought or feeling when listening to music. In fact the process of walking and listening to music (one of my favourite things in the world on a sunny day) is usually  emotionally and perceptually rich – take this for example, a song which for some reason is tied up in my mind with walking around on hot summers days but also tangled up with memories of various gigs in different cities and a couple of quite distinct periods of my life:

But what happens to my internal monologue when I’m walking along on a summer’s day listening to this song? It struck me earlier that I entirely see my supervisor’s point. My experience is of feelings and thoughts drifting in certain directions as a result of the music and the meaning (or lack thereof) past experience has embedded into it for me. But what inner monologue remains, if any, seems staccato and disjointed. Whereas earlier today when I found myself very aware of not having music for a 40 min walk (habitually I just would have music with me without thinking about it) I had a long drawn out inner dialogue about various things that have been on my mind recently. It’s this sort of dialogue through which we come to exercise agency (in that we decide on courses of action after deliberating internally about our circumstances and our concerns) and, if iPods do ‘blot this out’, it points to unacknowledged implications held by the ubiquity of this technology.

Categories: Outflanking Platitudes

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2 replies »

  1. The non stop wearing of headphones in public is destructive to people’s thought processes, detrimental to positive social interaction and downright dangerous at times (think of people being sneaked up on unawares or joggers being mugged).

    Thousands of years ago music was precious and rare, only basic instruments existed and when someone sang or played it was a special social occasion with communal meaning. Now cheap and trite music is everywhere and means nothing. That’s why I decided to give it up a few years ago and the silence is golden!

    All the best, Adam.

  2. I rarely listen to music through those earphones. More likely to be found are podcasts like Thinking Allowed or the Philosopher Zone. Those seem to do wonders to create all kinds of new internal conversations. External conversations – not so much. 🙂

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