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2013 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

Privatizing Urban Space in the Mediated World of iPod Users

Author: Michael Bull

Published in: Public Space, Media Space

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan UK


This chapter investigates the meanings attached to the sonic mediated habitation of public urban spaces, through analysis of the experiences of Apple iPod and smartphone users as they navigate their way through the city accompanied by the music contained in their personal technologies. Urban subjects text whilst walking, attention focused on the screen of their phone; talk to absent others on their smartphones; sit in trains reading from their iPads whilst simultaneously checking their emails; or sit engrossed in the latest snippet from their Facebook accounts. These forms of technologically mediated behavior question what it means to inhabit public urban space for many city dwellers. Public space is increasingly turned into a utilitarian space of private mediated activity. Time is reclaimed in terms of its “usefulness” and multi-tasked in relation to the possibilities embodied in users’ smartphones: “I’m not very good at doing one thing at once. I always feel that if I can do two things then it’s better” (Samantha).1 Streets walked through become secondary to the act of talking, texting, playing, listening or surfing. Awareness of others is equally recessed: “I work on the assumption that those people don’t know me, and I don’t know them. I’m not aware of any reaction I might be causing” (Lucy). Public space increasingly becomes a blank and neutral canvas on which to write one’s personal activity and experience.

Privatizing Urban Space in the Mediated World of iPod Users
Michael Bull
Copyright Year
Palgrave Macmillan UK