The Cloud: Harbinger of Potential Paradigm Shift

This relates to the previous post about technology and cultural change. In the news lately has been mention of Apple’s jumping onto the cloud bandwagon. As you probably know, this model of data purchase and storage keeps one’s files in the ether, so that they are accessible to you from any device with an internet connection. [cue inspirational music] No longer will our hard-drives be plagued with the tyranny of space-hogging music files! No longer must we contemplate whether or not to download that latest movie or television show! Now, we can just stream them, more or less, anytime we want, because these companies know that we own it.

This has curious implications for society’s concept of ownership. This type of technology uses an ownership-as-access model, rather than the more traditional ownership-as-possession model. Instead of physically having something (however broad the definition of “physically” has become recently because of all this technology), what we now have is access to that something any time we want. This change has been prepared for, I’d argue, because of previous technology like digital music (to replace physically tangible entities such as vinyl records and CDs). We have become accustomed to gradually separating the idea that we have something with the physical existence of that something. And we seem to be accepting it. Perhaps it’s not problematic at all, but I can see scenarios where this (new?) association of ownership with access, rather than possession, could become legally complicated. Or, it may become the case that because ownership is becoming dominantly associated with access, that access will come to stand for–or at least will become associated itself with–possession.

In any case, this seems to be an important, underlying paradigm shift that is not getting quite the attention or discussion that the miraculous new technology itself is getting. Maybe we’re heading toward a more communal model or ownership–where we all together own and help to store the things we consider ourselves to have. But I highly doubt people in America will think of it that way. These music files I’d essentially share with the large companies who store them for us, and the millions of other consumers who have access to them, are mine.

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3 Comments

Filed under Contemporary, Technology

3 responses to “The Cloud: Harbinger of Potential Paradigm Shift

  1. Michelle

    I hadn’t really thought before about the shift in concepts of ownership via technological advances. But let me present this to you: have you considered that “the cloud” removes a lot of the risk inherent in ownership of a physical thing, rather than mere protected access? Physical objects can be damaged, lost, stolen, or become useless over time (through extended preferential use, perhaps?). Even digital information that we store on our hard drives can be victim to crashes (don’t all of us have such horror stories?), theft (of the computer itself), system failures (of both main drive and, god forbid, your back-up drive), or just updating your system (oh, god, how to transfer all that data from one machine to another?). Ownership is risky business. One minute you own a thing, and then suddenly … you don’t. That thing is gone. There is no way to reclaim ownership of it. It’s just gone. But with the cloud … ah! the cloud! can you hear the heavenly trumpets? … by shifting “ownership” to “protected access,” we guarantee that we will always have (at least access to, if we’re being specific) those things. Our computer might explode. It might be taken over by communists (do those sort of things happen to other people, or just me?), but our music, our data files, whatever we deem important enough to never, _ever_ lose … well, it’s in the cloud. Safe. Happy. Protected in its heavenly abode. Our “ownership” of that thing is unchanged, no matter the horrific, apocalyptic catastrophe that destroys our macbook pros. And in the event of my beloved macbook’s death, knowing that my extensive library of duran duran is safe is just about the only thing holding me back from suicide.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s a really interesting point and definitely a way of looking at the whole situation (especially from a marketer’s perspective, and I think this perspective is partly how they’re trying to sell it, at least based on their press-conference language. that and the banishment of the need to sync all your fancy gadgets).

    It IS convenient in that way of inherent thingness-risk…This also leads to a control issue: is ownership not also, in the current form we think of and interact with it in capitalist western society (ok, yes, I’m thinking mostly of the U.S.) a concept that involves real, experienced power in the form of ownership? This loss-of-risk would change that. THEY own all the risk because THEY somewhat-physically have it on some server of mythical proportions. Now, again, this is not inherently a bad thing…But are we prepared to surrender a mode of control over what we “own” as it relates to thingness–physical having-ness of a possession? Are we ready to separate those two concepts?

    Is it really that safe up there in the cloud? I really do think the ownership of that thing has changed, even if we don’t think of it enough to register it as an implication of this sexy new technological convenience?

    P.S. This above comment is in no way meant to diminish the role that the Cloud plays (or will play) in the protection of your happy sanity music.

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  3. Pingback: Who Owns Our Social Capital? | Contemporary Contempt

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