The world's leading expert on the impact of personal stereos, Sussex media lecturer Dr Michael Bull, is investigating the Apple iPod trend.
Michael has studied the mobile music revolution since the arrival of the Sony Walkman in the late 1970s. He is now looking at the social influence of the increasingly popular iPod.
The iPod system delivers uninterrupted music to the listener, stored on a small hard drive inside the machine. The top model can hold about 10,000 songs and the mini version about 1,000. As well as non-stop music, iPod can store other files such as photos.
Michael said: "The iPod is the first cultural icon of the 21st century. There is nothing else like it in terms of the mix of style, functionality and consumer desire. The technology is appealing because it can be programmed very quickly and easily.
"This is a market leader and, like the Walkman before, it will change the way people manage their experience of music in urban space. It allows users to listen to whatever they want non-stop, providing a soundtrack to their world."
The research focuses on the take-up of iPod, including how and when devices are used. Last month Michael began distributing a questionnaire for iPod users to contribute their opinions to his research. He has already received replies from a range of respondents around the world, including iPod users in the USA and Australia.
Michael said: "The iPod appears to hold a much broader appeal than the youth-orientated advertising implies. My initial findings show users are professional executives and highly educated. Users seem to particularly appreciate the function allowing files to be sent to other people's iPods, much as mobile phones enable communication sharing in sound and pictures. It is creating a social community of the solitary iPod experience."
Michael has mainly received comment from male iPod owners. He added: "I am keen to hear the views of the female market. The latest models are aimed at women and I am interested in finding out how these are being received."
The findings will be used as the foundation of Michael's latest book, Mobilizing the Social: Sound Technology in Urban Experience (due to be published in spring 2005). To receive a copy of the questionnaire, iPod users can email Michael at M.Bull@sussex.ac.uk.