The Internet Age: Access vs. Owning…Your Kids Don’t Know The Difference…And Don’t Care

zeros and onesI had an odd but illuminating discussion with the two 20-something brats who never appear at meal time, yet mysteriously eat all of the food in the refrigerator. They have no understanding of the concept of owning a work of art; be it a painting or an album (isn’t that a cute word!) or a movie. Their only interest is access to the ones and zeros. They have no interest in possessing that digital information. In fact, they seem to be mildly irritated by the idea that they could possibly be anything other than a passive observer of the work of others. They are comfortable with their several dollars/month habit of paying a third party for temporary access to the works of the artists they enjoy. They see no problem with endlessly consuming a product without any tangible representation of it available to them.

Even the argument that any ownership of art without possession of the digital representation is transitory fell on deaf, or merely uninterested ears. They care not that it is merely rental, and is subject to the whims of the owners of the “Cloud” or the even more fickle market…that may drive their “Cloud” owners out of business without any interest in who owned which bytes.

This is a huge intellectual gulf. I and most of my peers see these works as tangible. The current generation sees them as temporary entertainment; to be discarded as their tastes change, without any interest in the past, whether to preserve it or merely to mock it!

I wonder how the founders would react to this (Oh, you thought that I wasn’t going to politicize this? Hah!)? Is it a rejection of the principle of conserving the old and established order….or is it an old curmudgeon with too much time on his hands this evening telling the younger generation to get off his lawn?


7 comments to “The Internet Age: Access vs. Owning…Your Kids Don’t Know The Difference…And Don’t Care”
  1. Not curmudgeonly, in my opinion. I feel the same way about things like an ‘Amazon Season Pass.’ No, I want the DVD, I want the book, I don’t want the electronic version unless I OWN a copy I can isolate from the web and any electronic editing access.

    I see the value in something like a Kindle, but I always worry that the electronic gods will edit something, or decide I no longer own something, so I still have hard copies of my books, my comics (yes, I am a nerd), etc

    I think it’s generational, yes, but it’s an idea that has been in process a long time.

    Remember DivX? The idea that you would in essence rent a disposable DVD that would only play X times, and only one one player? Glad it fell by the wayside, but we are seeing it re-emerge with software, too.

    You buy a license, but you can only download it X times, and to Y number of PCs. Great, so if my PC dies, the program I bought I now have to re-purchase?

    Maybe not the best of analogies, but for what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re telling the damn kids to get off the lawn — you’re trying to explain that they don’t actually OWN anything.

  2. That fear of editing, or even worse, deletion, is well founded.

    When I first bought a Kindle, one of the books I loaded onto it was 1984. Soon after I received an e-mail from Amazon that it was going to be edited, but in fact it just disappeared! Ironic….

    OregonMuse wrote of this in last week’s Book Thread at Ace of Spades.

  3. If I may offer a younger generation’s thoughts.

    Firstly, Netflix, Spotify et al, I never considered to be a form of ownership. They’re memberships to a library. Just like my public library although looking at my tax documents significantly cheaper.
    I don’t necessarily buy all the entertainment (or education for that matter) I buy what I want to keep and rewatch.
    Renting gives me an ability to seek out new styles and art forms I wouldn’t necessarily spend the excess money to buy without first knowing what I’m getting into. Put differently, lower costs allows me to be adventurous.

    Having said that, I do see concerns with digital cloud based ownership. Save for a few video games and some stuff I got for free I don’t use it all that often. *Digital Distribution* is somewhat different. I bought Adele’s most recent CD digitally, but then downloaded said DRM-Free MP3s to my local hard drive. (I did upload a copy into the cloud for ease of access on mobile devices but continue to maintain local copies.)
    The idea that you’re merely buying access to something is concerning (see CBD’s comment above.)

    Of course there are tradeoffs. My wife is a voracious reader. Such that a friend build us a custom 6’X8′ bookshelf that my wife double stacked and still had nearly a dozen boxes of books left. Frankly we were running out of room.
    Her nook allows her to keep gathering books without cramming me out of space. (We can locally store the files, but I suppose the non e-pub ones require nook software to open, I don’t know what will happen when B&N final gives up.)

    I of course would prefer a standard format that is DRM free that could be read by any number of readers. (Epub fulfills that, but many sellers don’t use it.)

  4. I don’t want the electronic version unless I OWN a copy I can isolate from the web and any electronic editing access.

    Indeed. Hard drives die, though.

    Also, DRM is one thing, but also having to pay an ISP to access stuff is bad too. And in the future, there will be extremely fine-grained filtering at the ISP level to restrict access to certain things. I mean, we’re already at the stage where this is possible, albeit perhaps not practical, but as technology moves along it’ll be cheaper and cheaper to implement. And kep in mind that companies like Time Warner are running ISPs, which means that they have quite the incentive to get you to pay for Netflix-like services rather than searching out free stuff on the web.

  5. That is a very good point.

    And…my guess is that companies like HBO will push very hard for filtering of gray market content. They want total control of the product once it leaves the movie studios…..

  6. Yeah, the cloud… just great. There’s a guy out there that does movie/t.v. reviews. Goes by sfdebris, he can quite funny at times. His “Voyager” reviews were epic. That is until Blip folded. Hundreds of reviews gone, just like that. Kids today love the cloud because they think their instant access will always be there. Kids are wrong.

    Calibre is a free online down-loadable program you can use to read any ebook. It will also let you convert from one format to another.

  7. It seems to me that modern producers of consumption are working based on that perspective as well. They don’t make anything to endure, they make things to be used up and thrown away. Not just cheap products, but cheap music, cheap imagery, cheap shows. Two Broke Girls will not prosper in reruns or DVD ownership. Pharell is not putting out music to keep and sing around the piano in 50 years.

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