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I blogged a while back about “why conservatives hate MP3 players” — the folks on the cultural right who think personal audio-players seal young people into self-involved bubbles of existential onanism, in which they pay no attention to the world around them.
Now it turns out this debate has arisen in the winter Olympics! Apparently, this year’s young Olympians love their iPods so much that many listen to them while they’re competing. The US snowboard team has even wired their uniforms to accomodate iPods, with iPod-sized pockets, speakers in their hoods, and control panels on their left sleeves. The music, says snowboarder Dustin Majewski, helps him stay in the zone: “It enables you to focus on what you’re doing without actually focusing, if that makes any sense,” he told the Baltimore Sun. “You’re not over-thinking, and that’s the best way to perform the harder tricks and maneuvers.”
That description is both hilariously incoherent and oddly spot-on. I think he’s trying to describe the sense of “flow” — being so joyously immersed in a task that the rest of the world seems to drop away: Perfect concentration without any sense of effort. But as it turns out, not all trainers and athletes think music has this sort of effect, as the Sun story goes on to report:
“I’m not certain it’s such a good idea” to listen to a music player during events, said Mike Jones of Dundalk, the president of the Baltimore Ski Club. “When you’re doing aerials and everything, you have to concentrate and focus on positions. On a day when it’s cloudy, you don’t know whether you’re looking at snow or sky, and distractions can be very dangerous.”
In fact, Spyder — the company that sponsors the alpine ski team — didn’t rig its Olympic uniforms with iPod-ready wires in part because of safety concerns.
“The skiers are racing down at 40 miles an hour,” said Laura Wisner, a company spokeswoman. “You are in a completely different realm. It would not be a good time to listen to your iPod.”
(Thanks to Yishay Mor for this one!)
I'm Clive Thompson, a writer on science, technology, and culture. This blog collects bits of offbeat research I'm running into, and musings thereon.
Currently, I'm a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. I also write for Fast Company and Wired magazine's web site, among other places. Email or AOL IM me (pomeranian99) to say hi or send in something strange!
May 20, 2011 » 02:28 PM
From Christopher Kennedy’s very droll book “Neitzsche’s Horse”.
July 28, 2010 » 07:35 AM
“Wr” - S
July 06, 2010 » 10:05 AM
My Xbox broke, and I was trying to Google some possible technical solutions, when I noticed that Google appears to be encouraging me to make a typo. I suppose it’s possible that Google’s algorithms know that typing “wont” instead of “won’t” would produce better results.
June 29, 2010 » 05:00 PM
On the other hand, when I tried the test for multitasking, I was pretty abysmal. I performed worse than people who identify themselves as heavy multitaskers, and those who identify as low multitaskers.
June 29, 2010 » 04:58 PM
I finally got around to trying out the interactive “test your distractability and multitasking” page at the New York Times, which they put up alongside their story earlier this month about how computer distractions are eroding our lives.
According to the test, I guess I have good focus — I’m not very distractable!
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