Razumich Essay

Jessica Razumich
English 4874
Essay #1: Ethnography
October 13, 2009

iPods: Entertainment or Management?

What exactly is the proper definition of an iPod? According to PC Magazine Encyclopedia an iPod is a family of extremely popular digital media players from Apple, introduced in 2001 for the Mac and a year later for Windows; originally used for music only with a monochrome screen, color screens, photos and video were soon added, and third-party games and applications were also developed. According to a student that I interviewed, attending Columbia College, his definition of an iPod is a personal music player made by Apple, and is an evolving product. However, according to another interviewee, Diana Razumich a human resource manager and mother of two, an iPod is simply her favorite music. How do we determine what an iPod is? Is its definition created literally in means of technology, or in its uses for education and entertainment, or maybe its in is use in sports and working out as motivation? What does the definition mean; in other words does the definition of an iPod equal simple entertainment or knowledge management for humans?

According to Internet based research that I have done, people’s views of iPods and what they can do vary. Right now the biggest debate is whether or not iPods should be used in class. Duke University in Durham, N.C., became the first school ever to provide all incoming freshmen with their own 20-gigabyte iPod. However, only students enrolled in courses such as music and language instruction will receive the iPods (Moore). The faculty and students alike share both the excitement and dread of receiving iPods for educational purposes. Mr. Noguera of New York University is just one of the professors who are excited about introducing the iPod into the educational system. He states “You know the No.1 complaint about school is that it’s boring because the traditional way it’s taught relies on passive learning, it’s not interactive enough.” At Duke, 75% of freshmen who received the iPod said that they used them for their academic work; however half the time they said they used them in ways recommended by professors, but the other half of the time they devised uses of their own (Moore). Professors at other universities do not share this excitement, they say their lack of enthusiasm for the iPod in the class is due to the fact that they pose a distraction to students as well as the fact that students have been caught cheating on tests by loading answers, formulas, and notes onto their iPods. Basically students are not thinking for themselves.

iPods in the educational system can be used as forms of knowledge management. Think about it like this: students are learning what professors are downloading onto the iPods, for example their lectures and power points. The professors’ control what is being fed to the student through the iPod. Students are not learning information but rather repeating it, like repeating the lyrics to a song. In order for someone to understand the meaning of a song they must see the lyrics, study them, discuss them with the creator, and understand them. The same goes with lectures and class material. If students simply listen the to lectures, they are simply repeating them back to the professor. There is no learning-taking place. The whole point of having a professor is so that a student can interact and engage with not only the professor but the people around them as well. Students learn so much more when they engage in a discussion and are asked to think for themselves, rather then being told what to think. William Lynch, director of Drexel University’s school of education in Philadelphia, claimed, “we want students to be able to take the professor with them wherever they go.” Students can communicate with one another through podcasting, a form of blogging using audio files as opposed to text. But, once again isn’t this managing not only our knowledge, but also our interaction with people? Some educators worry that through this perpetual connectivity iPods will actually encourage isolation (Moore). As much as I want to argue the fact that iPods are another way to manage knowledge I have to agree with Tim Dodd, executive director of The Center for Academic Integrity at Duke, that “trying to fight the technology without a dialogue on values and expectations is a losing battle”. As teachers are thinking about how technology has corrupted, they’re also thinking about ways it can be used productively (FOXNews.com).

Out of the ten people I interviewed four said that iPods were controlling, three said that they were not, and three others said that they weren’t sure.
The first person that I interviewed was Brandon Bergersen. He is a 21-year-old college student at Dowling College in New York. He is in the navy and has an athletic scholarship for lacrosse. He owns a 4G iPod Nano that he has had for three years. He uses it about three times a week, for about one to one and a half hours when in study hall and walking to classes. He believes that the iPod is controlling because it gives you some sort of entertainment when you have nothing to do and it’s portable so you can take it anywhere; and most of the time you do and it becomes habit forming. He feels that you become dependent on that source of entertainment. He said that when he travels with the team he never leaves without his iPod, it the first thing that he packs. When asked if he thinks that the iPod can control his moods, he said that he thinks the iPod itself cant, but the music that is playing can. However, he followed up by stating that since the iPod is what is playing the music, the main source of where the music is coming from, then maybe the iPod can control your mood.

Bryce Reem is a 21-year-old college student at Frostburg University in West Maryland. He said, “I love iPod’s I think they are a great way to keep yourself entertained when walking to and from class, when I have parties, and in the car.” When I asked him if the thought that iPods could personally manage him he responded, “I don’t think they can contol you at all, it’s a F-in electronic and if it does control someone they need to see a shrink because they have problems.” Bryce was very passionate about his belief that technology is simply just that, a machine or idea that without humans would be nothing. He felt that humans are the ones in control not the technology. I asked him that since he felt that way, does he think that there are people who use the technology to limit or control what information and entertainment is available to him. Bryce responded that he felt it was possible, with iTunes and the fact that they can raise prices on certain songs, or that they only provide certain songs, that they could be controlling his entertainment that way. He also mentioned that we have to take into consideration the different generations of iPods. He brought up the point that those of us who still have the older iPods are not as exposed as those people with the newer iPods. For example he said, “iPod touch can provide so much more entertainment than a first generation iPod. So I guess for some younger people the iPod could control them because of the new added applications and features, just like game boy was for us back in the day!”

Kara Sordelette is a 22-year-old graduate student here at Virginia Tech. She recently just bought her first iPod this summer. At first she thought they were a waste of money and didn’t really understand the reason of owning one. It wasn’t until she decided to start going to the gym that she realized the “need” for an iPod. She said, “After my first adventure to the gym and not having any music or some type of entertainment besides awkwardly staring at other people or the windows, I realized I needed an iPod.” After this realization she believed that it was possible for an iPod to control a person, “I know of people who CAN’T leave their apartment without their iPod”. As for now she says that her iPod has not begun to control her, but she finds her choice of music to be more influenced by the rankings of the music on iTunes, the software used to download music to the iPod.

Brendan Lester is a 21-year-old college student attending Columbia College in Chicago. He said that he has had three iPods and loves it! “I use mine all the time, I love using it because the interface is simple, and makes it easy to get what I want to listen. In my opinion, the larger the capacity of the iPod the better. I listen to music every day on mass transit, and it’s a nice deterrent against the homeless both there and elsewhere in the city.” Even though he does not believe that iPods are controlling, he contradicts himself here. The iPod is controlling his emotions by making the poor/the junk invisible to him by immersing himself into this false reality. He believes that “as long as you’re respectful in the right situations, I see it as no different than a CD or cassette Walkman, nothing worse or better. It helps me stay in a good mood by giving me music to listen to.” Even here he admits to being controlled by stating that it GIVES him music. He does not say that he gets the music from it but rather that it gives it to him. He admits that he sees an iPod as a tool, “not a learning or stupefying piece of electronic equipment”. He made a mention to the newer iPods, just as Bryce did, in the sense that there are now more learning tools out there for the iPod. However, Brendan prefers to just use his for music and entertainment.

Diana Razumich, a 47-year-old mother of two (yes my mother who I know is not bias, thus my reason for interviewing her) and non-stop workaholic defined an iPod as “my favorite music”. She does not own an iPod, but steals mine on a regular basis to listen to “her favorite music” when she works out. She said “an iPod cannot control you because you are the one who puts the information into it and decides to listen to it”. “You are controlling it, I’m in control of it because I can turn it on and off whenever I want to. I put in what I want to listen to, it does not put music or information on itself nor does it turn itself on and off.” In the past few years she has purchased three iPods, so she knows what they are and what they can do. She said that if she did own one, personally, that she would solely use it indoors because she likes to know her surroundings when she goes out. “Especially in a world like today, I want to know my surroundings in society.” Even though she would not use an iPod in a social setting, she feels that if you are sitting on a bus by yourself it is different. When I asked her how she felt about introducing iPods into education she said, “iPods in the classroom could be helpful because for your generation, 21 year olds, most of you already have iPods and are technologically advanced. You can use them to help yourselves, but for my generation forget it! We aren’t used to it, people my age we don’t like change!”

From the interviews I have done, and my observation of students around the Virginia Tech campus I can relate to both arguments that an iPod is entertainment, and that it can manage your knowledge. I believe that in order to determine if the iPod is entertainment or management you must first know how it is being used.

If a person is solely using the iPod to fill a void, example: walking to and from class, riding the bus, or driving in a car, I believe that they are using the iPod for entertainment. Like some of the people I interviewed said, they get to choose what music they put onto their iPod and when they want to listen to it. When watching students walk around campus, most students had headphones on and were somewhat aware of their surroundings. I saw students with headphones on wave to friends and keep walking, while others stopped to take off/out the headphones and talk to one another. I think that if the iPod is used for entertainment than there is no real threat of knowledge management.

On the other hand, iPods in the educational system, I believe, IS a definite form of knowledge management. With lectures, foreign language studies, research notes, files, and photos all being downloaded onto the iPod for class use it is too easy for our knowledge to be managed thorough this device. One red flag that has arose over this new concept, that involve managing this data and thus our knowledge, is when and where is copyright being infringed when students and faculty make their own recordings? “Do students have permission from the person who wrote the lectures to share it?” Asked Alan Albright, managing principal and specialist in intellectual property litigation at the law firm of Fish & Richardson in Austin,Texas. The school wouldn’t be liable anymore than Kmart is liable for selling the iPod (Moore). As mentioned before, if used in an educational setting, I believe that iPods can create isolation among people, thus controlling not only our knowledge but also our human social interaction. It is controlling our natural way of life.

Works Cited

"FOXNews.com - Schools Ban iPods to Prevent Cheating - Science News | Science &
Technology | Technology News." Breaking News | Latest News | Current News - FOXNews.com. 30 Apr. 2007.
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Hu, Winnie. "The New York Times Log In." The New York Times - Breaking News,
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<http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/09/education/09ipod.html>.

"IPod Definition from PC Magazine Encyclopedia." PC Magazine - Computer, Software,
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Oct. 2009. <http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia_term/0,2542,t%253DiPod%2526i%253D45403,00.asp>.

Moore, Elizabeth A. "When iPod goes collegiate | csmonitor.com." The Christian Science
Monitor | csmonitor.com. 19 Apr. 2005. Web. 12 Oct. 2009. <http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0419/p11s01-
legn.html>.

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