Category Archives: knowledge gap hypothesis

How an Apple iPod Changed my Life and the Knowledge Gap Hypothesis

How an Apple iPod Changed my Life and the Knowledge Gap Hypothesis

By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

In the first installment of this series I described how a simple mp3 player changed my life. In this article, I will discuss how Apple’s video iPod and mp3 player altered the way that I function on a day to day basis as well and my personal argument that the knowledge gap hypothesis has severe implications not just for the ‘have nots’ but also for the ‘haves.’

In the first article I listed the following benefits of an mp3:

  1. No more CDs
  2. Listening to more music (old and new)
  3. Getting use out of  previously bought music
  4. Increased chance for learning and relieving my eyes from reading so much (Audiobooks)
  5. Spending money on “must have” accessories; and
  6. Increasing effort while exercising and exercising more

Well, the first benefit, no more CDs, remains true. The iTunes music store has eliminated my trips to Best Buy, Circuit City or Music Warehouse to buy new music and comedy CDs. Further, having the ability to buy only the songs that interest me saves me the feeling of being cheated.  In my estimation, the new selectivity afforded consumers has forced artists to create more complete products. Not only can I buy music and CDs but the extra storage space the iPod possesses and video features allows me to download TV shows, movies, audiobooks and my favorite podcasts.

I am still listening to more music and getting much more out of previously bought music but markedly less than before. Once the excitement wore off about being able to carry music around everywhere I went; after hearing old songs a few times my music consumption dropped again.

As far as spending money on must have accessories, I must admit that I was caught by the ‘bug’ and began to buy even more devices for the Apple Ipod. The first purchase was a device that allowed me to play all of my videos, TV shows or movies through the television. My wife bought me a wireless transmitter for it shortly after. Let’s not forget the casing to protect the iPod and a couple of sets of speakers because I wanted to find one with just the right sound.

In reference to using an Ipod while exercising and increasing exercise activity; I found holding the video iPod cumbersome while exercising so it didn’t help in that regard. In addition, I stopped using the Samsung audio mP3 shortly after I bought the iPod so I no longer use either for exercising. They both canceled out the other to the detriment of my health.

However, point four is where the majority of my usage of the ipod occurs and is the real focus of this article. The chance for increased knowledge with the use of the ipod is astounding. Further, as Marshall McLuhan wrote in “Understanding Media,” information has become a commodity (1964). As an academic, who lives and breathes the university and collegiate environment, I am always reading a book and I exchange information as a way of ‘making a living.’ I have always have been a ‘bookworm,’ even before becoming an academic. However, as job responsibilities increase and I find myself spending more time in my car; attending to ‘must do’ hands-on activities in my home; and at times I am too tired too read; the iPod has become an invaluable source for listening to audiobooks and especially podcasts. The iTunes store is an amazing resource as I have had the opportunity to find more information on certain topics than I will ever be able to consume.

There is a ‘theory,’ the knowledge gap hypothesis, put forth by Tichenor, Donohue and Olien, concerning how information, especially through the media, is diffused through our society; who has and doesn’t have acess to this information and how this is affected by their socio-political and economic status. This hypothesis asserts that those who have have higher levels of economic resources, education and social status will receive and process information much quicker than those who do not have the aforementioned resources (Bryant & Thompson, 2002).

I have been familiar with this assertion for a number of years and could theoretically see how well this hypothesis could apply to a number of situations; but it became glaring once I purchased the Apple iPod. As I perused the number of free podcasts and audiobooks available in the Itunes store I realized that I had been doing myself a disservice. My self-imposed ban on buying an mp3 player had made me lose out on a wealth of knowledge. I then thought about all of the people who could not afford mp3s, broadband or DSL service and all of the tools necessary to take advantage of all of the “free” downloads available online.

I loaded my Ipod with podcasts concerning telecommunication issues, journalism and educational issues. I even stopped listening to my XM radio in the car because I could further control what I was listening to. One of my hobbies is learning physics (beginner), so I was blown away when I discovered the lectures of physics professors from UC Berkeley and other universities on Itunes. I was even able to handpick sports podcasts that interested me. I understand that I could never listen to all of the media available on iTunes or available through other websites, not even in my own field of interest. Yet, I did realize that using these resources would allow me to exponentially increase my knowledge about a certain field or interest than older mediums would allow. The sheer amount of resources and availability that the iPod has granted me outpaces many of the other mediums I use. It’s portability also plays an important role.

My minor epiphany about the usage of the Apple iPod enlightened me to the idea that having access to newer technologies such as mp3 players is not just fun but also vital. Not only is it entertaining, but it enhances my knowledge about subjects in ways that are not possible through television, radio, newspapers, books and through reading Internet websites. The knowledge that I gain from listening to these sources has made me a better professional, increases my conversational ability in social circles and connects me to a vast network of information, people and ideas. For example, in an interview with a dean of a college that offered me a job, but I did not accept, I used knowledge gained from listening to educational podcasts in our one on one talk. I know firsthand how valuable this material is.

It is my fault that I didn’t start using the technology sooner because my ban on mp3s was self imposed, but for those who would like access to this type of technology but aren’t able to; what are they missing and how does this lack of access affect their life?


Bryant, J., & Thompson, S. (2002). Fundamentals of Media Effects.
New York, NY: McGraw Hill-Higher Education.

McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.
New York, NY: Mentor.