Before I get started, let me confess that I am a ‘Pod-person. I have two of them, in fact. And I listen to them everyday, except in the now-routine occurence of losing them for a few days at a time.
In fact I think that the ending of cultural literacy began with player pianos. Before they existed, if you wanted to hear music, you had to either learn how to play an instrument or wait for a concert to come along. This put a great value in music, since it was either difficult or rare. And so people had fewer tunes buzzing around in their heads, and each one they knew pretty thoroughly and savored.
But with player pianos, and then radio, records, CDs, etc., music got cheaper and cheaper and much more easily available. Now, in fact, it is hard to go anywhere without some sort of music playing — “backgound music,” which is a phrase to resent.
With this automation comes a loss of cultural literacy, I think. Sure, any of these devices can be used to augment one’s own cultural literacy — I try to tell myself that’s what I’m doing — but usually that’s not the purpose. It’s just to create a soundtrack to whatever else we’re doing.
What do you think?