Practically overnight, the iPod shuffle has established itself as the upscale promotional giveaway. I know of three recent events where the shuffle was given away as a door prize–Gwen being the lucky recipient of one of these.
This is interesting on many levels. An underlying assumption is that any possible recipient will be able to use it and will value it (which is based on other assumptions about access to computers, technical competence, interest in music, etc). In other ways, though, the Shuffle itself is almost perfect as a door-prize: it makes no assumptions about the user’s tastes. It is faceless and white. Unassuming. Neither girly nor masculine, liberal nor conservative. It is blank, and becomes a mirror of the user’s tastes by being used. It is cheap enough for a promoter to buy a few out of petty cash, but nice enough to make the winner feel lucky to get it. And it really is nice–after using hers for all of five minutes, Gwen commented “I’ll bet their are twelve-step programs for iPod users.”
The iPod does make one assumption: that your ears are big enough to accommodate Apple’s earbuds, and as it turns out, Gwen’s aren’t.