The future is really insistent on making sure I don’t own a single physical piece of media.
I happen to resent this, because physical pieces of media have gone a long way towards helping me out in my romantic endeavors. But if everything I watch and read and play is being beamed down to me from The Cloud, then how will I have any books or DVDs to lend to interesting women to A.) show off my good taste and, more importantly, B.) have a valid excuse to see them again.
Giving out my Netflix password isn't nearly as sexy as saying "Oh, I have all of Batman: The Animated Series on DVD, I'll let you borrow it if you ever come over."
Enough about me, though, we're talking about media.
You can personalize it all you want, but the fact remains: media is a shared experience. Even the things we watch or read on our own we talk about with others, and companies have tried to own this with fancy second-screen apps and Twitter hashtags to varying degrees of success. But none of that really matters when you're at a bar with a friend and both of you are talking about the last episode of Game of Thrones or the movie you just saw or the show you're raging through on Netflix.
Sharing is important. Pop culture is a shorthand, a way for us to talk about all manner of things and connect with one another by establishing a narrative we all take in and internalize. The conversations that emerge from that internalization is what makes it all matter. And when a film or book has a profound effect on my life or way of thinking, you can be damn sure I'm going to buy it and put it on a shelf in my home and hope that everyone who walks in asks about it. If they're familiar, we'll talk. And if not, I'll give it to them.
That's what we're losing in all this. Sure, you can gift games through Steam and video through iTunes, but there's nothing immediate, nothing special about sending a friend a file that physically isn't much different from the hundreds of files they shuffle around each day online. And more importantly, you can't give a digital copy back. And that's important. Because returning a book/movie/game to me says you've experienced it yourself. This thing that I care about enough to occupy space in my home and want to share with others. And that you're now ready to talk about it.
Of course, it could also mean that our last date went very well. Have you ever seen Friday Night Lights? I have it on DVD. I'll let you borrow it if you ever come over.
Photo by debaird™