Downloading Empathy to Your iPod‘s Howard Parnell has written a fantastic article about playlist sharing as a form of self-expression that can generate rich interpersonal relationships and vibrant communities.  The article builds in part on my recent paper on playlists, co-authored with Mike McGuire. Parnell focuses on the story of Justine Saylors, a grieving mom who took solace in music after the death of her son:

“Last summer the 44-year old Lake Oswego, Ore., resident discovered
iMixes — music playlists compiled by iTunes users, then uploaded and
shared with other customers. Soon she was typing words and phrases such
as “bereavement” and “death of a child” into the iMix search tool, then
sampling and in many cases buying songs at 99 cents a pop from the
lists that turned up.

“By the time another October arrived,
Saylors had amassed a sizable collection of some of the most
heartbreaking music to be found on iTunes. And nearly all of it had
been recommended not by professional critics or some sort of Amazonian
collaborative filtering bot, but by people who — judging from notes
posted with their iMixes or just the song selections alone — seemed to
Justine to be much like herself: hurting, missing someone special,
reaching out.

“The result was a personal playlist of songs that
[her son] Lance would sing along to, that were used in soundtracks of home movies
taken in his final months, that were played at his funeral, and that
she could cry to after.

“Today, Saylors is herself one of the more
visible iMix creators, and in recent months iTunes users have rated
hers among the best of the more than 300,000 lists available on the
service. In searching for a way to cope with her loss and create
awareness of neuroblastoma, the pediatric cancer that claimed her son,
she became part of a phenomenon that some researchers predict will
dramatically change the online music business before the decade is out.”

Read the whole thing.