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.