Michael Bull cites Lefebvre: “he who walks down the street… is immersed in the multiplicity of noises, murmurs, rhythms”, arguing that urban dwellers are primarily “listening” subjects.

iPod. Photo by Mick Frank

But “listening subjects” have become exponentially deaf. We are moving to what Bull calls a “mediated urban isolation” or what Bauman sees as “privatizing of the street” and as widespread iPod and mobile phone users we have the perfect tools to do so.

Just as Odysseus outwitted the sirens by pouring wax into his fellows’ ears, modern man is outwitting cold urban spaces, proximity to people we do not care of and (to what Augé calls non-places) shopping malls, airports and car parks by pouring “technologically mediated sound” into our ears.

By singling the undesired out of our lives and silencing the polyrhythmic sound, we create a protective bubble neutralising insecurity and angst induced by crowds and public spaces. Because iPods and to a certain extent also mobile phones do not allow interactivity we are distancing the “other” and by doing so we gain self-awareness and control over our fragility. As Bull perfectly surmises, “an urban world in which the ‘other’ is ignored, negated and denied the iPod is the 21st century urban dwellers’ audiovisual response to urban spaces or what Augé describes as semiologically denuded spaces.

iPod. Photo by Mick Frank