In an effort to investigate the consequences of the electronic media on the audience, the author examines the impact of the Walkman on the experiences of the listeners. To study the experience of Walkman listeners, the author analyzed the journals of 40 college students regarding their experiences in listening to their Walkmans. In the study, the technological features of the Walkman, the expressive bias and the privatization, are specified and their impact on the nature of the experiences of the listeners are analyzed. The author argues that narcissism best describes the experiences fostered by the expressive bias and the privatization of the Walkman. Narcissism is used here to refer to the visceral sensation and the social segregation one experiences as one listens to the Walkman. The author concludes that electronic narcissism, far from being a pathological act, is in fact a sign of mental health.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Altheide, D. (1985). Media power. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Altheide, D. (1995). An ecology of communication. Howthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.
Barthes, R. (1982). Empire of signs. Translated by Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang.
Blumer, H. (1969). Symbolic interaction. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Chambers, I. (1990). A miniature history of the walkman. New Formations, 11, 1-4.
Chen, S. (1997). Carl Couch and the formal sociology of information technology. In D. Miller, M. Katovich, and S. Saxton (Eds.), Constructing complexity: Symbolic interaction and social forms. Studies in symbolic interaction (Supplement 3, pp.177-201). Greenwich, Connecticut: JAI Press.
Couch, C. (1984). Symbolic interaction and generic sociological principles. Symbolic Interaction, Spring, 1-13.
Couch, C. (1989). Social processes and relationships: A formal approach. New York: Gneral Hall.
Couch, C. (1990). Mass communication and sate structuress. Social Science Journal, 27, 111-128.
Couch, C. (1996). Information technologies and social orders. Edited by David Maines and Shing-Ling Chen. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine.
du Gay, P., Hall, S., Janes, L., Mackay, H., and Negus, K. (1997). Doing cultural studies: The story of the Sony Walkman. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Eisenstein, E. (1985). The printing press as an agent of change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Freud, S. (1914). Standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth.
Grossberg, L. (1983). The politics of youth culture. Social Text, 8, Winter, 104-126.
Hosokawa, S. (1984). The Walkman effect, Popular Music, 4, 165-80.
Innis, H. (1951). The bias of communication. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Kohut, H. (1971). The analysis of the self. New York: International University Press.
McLuhan, M. (1965). Understanding the media. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Mead, G. (1934). Mind, self and society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Meyrowitz, J. (1985). No sense of place. New York: Oxford University Press.
Piaget, J. (1964). Relations between affectivity and intelligence in the mental development of the child. In Sorbonne courses. Paris: University Documentation Center.
Simmel, G. (1971). On individuality and social form. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.
Tonnies, F. (1988). Community and society. New Brunswick: Transaction Books.
Weber, M. (1946). From Max Weber: Essays in sociology (H. Gerth and C. Mills, Eds. and trans.). New York: Oxford University Press.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Chen, SL.S. Electronic Narcissism: College Students' Experiences of Walkman Listening. Qualitative Sociology 21, 255–276 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1022142519564
- evocative bias