To Dr Michael Bull, portable music players are “multi-faceted transformative devices”, a “tool whereby users manage space, time and the boundaries around the self.”

Dr Bull is one of the few academics, possibly the only one, to spend time researching what owners of iPods and other music players do with their gadgets, why they listen to them and what difference they make to their lives.

He started investigating what people do with music players because he realised it was an area that had been neglected by other students of culture.

Most people who study how humans behave in public look at what is seen, rather than what is heard.

“There’s the visual domination of explaining urban experience,” he says, “but if you look at it through sound you get different explanations.”

More here.