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The walkman effect*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 November 2008


The walkman – a cassette recorder for headphone listening. This gadget, originally invented and marketed by Sony in the spring of 1980 in Japan, and soon exported, has become known throughout the West, however awkward its Japanese-made English may sound. As its use has proliferated, so have the arguments about its effects. One example, a report in Nouvel Observateur, was cited by Philippe Sollers (Sollers 1981, p. 50). The interviewer, apparently, asks young people (eighteen to twenty-two years old) the following: whether men with the walkman are human or not; whether they are losing contact with reality; whether the relations between eyes and ears are changing radically; whether they are psychotic or schizophrenic; whether they are worried about the fate of humanity. One of the interviewees replies: your question is out-of-date. All of these problems of communication and incommunicability, according to him, belong to the sixties and the seventies. The eighties are not the same at all. They are the years of autonomy, of an intersection of singularities in the construction of discourses. Soon, he says, you will have every kind of film on video at home, every kind of classical music on only one tape. This is what gives me pleasure.

Part 3. Modes of Listening
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1984

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