What is “real” anyway?

Last week Jeff talked about an mp3 player being more “real” of an experience than a CD player because you have access to an entire library of songs, and thus can choose the song that is most appropriate to any given situation.  But there’s a bit of a problem to this theory.  There is an underlying assumption here that the “appropriateness” of a song exists entirely in the world of the mp3 player, not outside of it.   For example, there are songs that I appreciate because they were given to me as a mix-tape (that’s cassette) in high school.  Those songs are not only attached to that time and that person, but also to the experience of having it as a tape.  I couldn’t “skip” songs as I can now, so when I encountered a song I didn’t like, I had to fast-forward through them, old school style.  It wasn’t instantaneous, and I often had to jam through “play/fast-forward/play/fast-forward/play,” leaving memories of those physical acts, as well as the sound that comes from it.  Additionally, I was more prone to listening to that song that I didn’t like than I would be were I to be listening to it on a digital technology.  That mix-tape had a distinctly different experience associated to it than if it were a mix-playlist.

To circle back: I can listen to a song from that tape now off of my mp3 player, but the “appropriateness” of that song is influenced by the non-mp3 experience I once had.   Which brings me back to my point – is the “real”ness of an medium determined in as much as it reflects something in the past?  Isn’t every experience in this sense a new experience in and of itself, building upon the memories?  If so, then the meaning of the situation is continually developed, and a less “appropriate” song picked is still as “real” as any other song.

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