An MP3 used to be a concert. A Kindle used to be a bookstore.
Is this you?ï»¿Â You listen to music personally on your MP3 player. You read books by yourself and watch your TV on your laptop or iPad. You eat alone at least 50% of the time, rarely go to concerts, and watch more movies at home than in theatres.
Do you recognize yourself in this profile? 😉
A side effect of the digitization and portability of cultural artifacts is that they have also been brought from the public to the private. A gramophone used to be expensive, and a community might have had only one, so they shared it. Now we all have iPods, so we have our own music collection. We can download our favourite songs privately, so we don’t have to talk to a record store clerk– or anyone, for that matter.
What was once necessarily public has become private. What used to belong to a community has become private property. This might be a normal process of commodification– food becomes affordable, so we have snack foods or protein shakes instead of feasts. Stuff get cheaper, more portable, and private.
Interestingly enough, this also leeches value out of the public domain and into the pockets of corporations. This may, or may not, be an accident. But that’s not the point. The privatization of culture is a fact, and we have to deal with it. Though it fuels a sense of personal power, if we’re not careful, it also feeds loneliness.
Collective activity is a pillar of connection inside a community, helping people laugh together and share good conversation. It fuelsÂ ï»¿a sense of belonging andÂ happiness.Â How much of it are you doing?
If this is a normal phase of cultural and technological evolution, then it might be unstoppable. But your personal choice will reflect your priorities and decide the kind of life you live. The more public, the better you are at conversation and the more you feel a sense of kinship with others. The more private, the less conformity, but at the expense of belonging.Â ï»¿You are either a wolf or a sheep, but the choice often happens without your consent.
Creative Commons people and programmers tend to get this, and bloggers often do too– the more you give stuff away, the more you get back. But often we live this only in regards to the web, and miss out because of it. Dungeons and Dragons has become World of Warcraft– an impression of being public, but without the actual increase in satisfaction or happiness. It is a trompe-l’oeil that mimics depth.
My strategy to trade favourite books with people, to have weekly ‘dates,’ and to have people over for supper.Â ï»¿These are not exciting things.
They are not about technology. They are about people.
But if you’re part of the social web, and all you get excited about is the New Twitter, you do not see the big picture, and you are mistaken about why it matters.
Take a step back and look again.