The Internet has changed my desire to own things. I’ve been through a distinct progression in this regard in the 10+ years I’ve been online.
I remember first getting online at the computer lab at Augustana College and looking up stuff about James Bond. It was all very interesting, but I had to own it all, physically. So I printed like crazy. I remember printing hundreds and hundreds of sheets of paper of James Bond stuff, taking it home to my tiny apartment, and filing it.
I got over that pretty quickly when I had my own computer, but I still had to own stuff, even if it was virtual. MP3s were the next big thing — I collected them. I amassed a folder of about 900 (pirated) MP3s. I had a Palm back then, and whenever I was out somewhere and heard a song, I would jot the title down so I would remember to go get it from Napster so it would be mine.
A few years ago, when Rhapsody came out and Napster re-launched as a service, I remember hearing about all the music you could get to for $10 a month. But then someone mentioned that you only had it for as long as you had the service. I was horrified. You mean you didn’t own it? What was the point?
But, somewhere along the line, I got over this. I started enjoying Rhapsody and Napster and came to the conclusion that “having instant, unfettered access to” and “owning” were essentially the same thing. My $10 a month was a fee I paid someone else to store, manage, and take responsibility for my stuff.
And now I’ve come even further —
I was watching Scrubs the other night (great, great show), and I got to thinking that I’d like to see all the episodes. So, I thought, I’ll go down to Best Buy and pick up the DVDs. Then I decided not to, because what am I going to do with those disks and stuff? I’d probably lose them, or they’d get scratched (I have three kids, remember), and I’d have to store them somewhere, and keep track of them, and…what a pain.
But what if I could pay a fee to just have access to those Scrubs episodes? Now that would be something. Someone else would handle them and make sure they worked and stayed safe. I could just log on and watch them without any regard to anything physical floating around my house or any file floating around my hard drive that I had to deal with. When the episode was done, I just close the window and walk away. Now that’s what I want.
And there you have it — I’ve gone from wanting to own everything to wanting to own nothing and actually being stressed out by the thought of ownership. Weird how that works.
(I realize too that this probably makes one side of the intellectual property debate happy, the other side indignant. I’m sorry for this because I believe in the side of truth, justice, and Cory Doctorow. Sorry man, this is just how I feel about it.)