Tuning in (or out) to the Radio

13.1 miles later…

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I completed my first half-marathon!

Thanks to months of training, a good dinner the night before, and an energy gel shot, I was able to complete the Disney Half Marathon. In this photo, my left hand is clutching something that at the time seemed more important than the hundreds of miles that I logged prior to the race—my iPod.

For 2:00:36 Rhinna, Katy Perry, Pitbull, and Kanye pounded through my headphones and drowned out my tired body and mind. One thing is certain, if it wasn’t for my iPod, headphones, and arm band, I never would have crossed that finish line.

My reliance on music during the race was not an isolated experience. I count on Pandora to stimulate my mind when I write papers and stir my thoughts when my eyelids start to get heavy on road trips. In Susan Douglas’s Listening In, the chapter “Zen of Listening,” describes the radio as a communal experience that creates a sense of nationhood among listeners:

“The sheer geographic scope that these new, simultaneous experiences now encompassed—when 40 million people, for example, tuned in to exactly the same thing—outstripped anything the newspaper had been able to do in terms of nation building on a psychic, imaginative level.”

However, as the number of radio stations increased, the audience diverged. In society today, FM and AM radio stations are being drowned out by a more individualized radio experience made possible through Internet radio stations such as Pandora. Is there still a space for communal radio listening experience in modern society?

While music tastes are not universal across the board, generations have been defined by a particular genre of music that is promoted and instilled by the radio. How will we define the music tastes of our generation 50 years from now? Has the radio’s ability to create generational identity been lost in a sea of earbuds and individualized playlists?

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