Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Do we care enough to save our memories in the digital world?

On Monday it was reported that Bruce Willis was suing Apple for the rights to the music he owns. And then on Tuesday it was reported he wasn't. Even so, this brings to light something that many of us were probably unaware of: your record collection is not yours. Yes you heard me right, you don't actually own the music you buy through iTunes, it's just on loan.

This is part of a wider problem that has been talked about in tech, design, photography, art circles for a few years now; nothing is actually real. It's not been brought to the attention of the wider public that we won't actually have anything to pass down to our children anymore - no old photographs gathering dust in albums, no record to be drawn to by its sleeve design, nothing. Indeed it was this issue that was said to be the reasoning behind Bruce Willis supposedly suing Apple - he wanted to leave his record collection to his children. Currently, under iTunes terms and conditions users are merely 'borrowing' tracks under licence and when the owner dies the tracks are the property of Apple once more.

"Willis has discovered that, like anyone who has bought music online, he does not actually own the tracks but is instead ‘borrowing’ them under a licence," The New Statesman quotes Neil Sears in a Daily Mail article.

Public awareness of the transient nature of the collections of photographs, music and books that we 'own' only increases once exhibitions, newspaper articles prompt conversation among people. Digital Crystal, the new show at the Design Museum with Swarovski is trying to do just that.

"We want to create memories, physical things that we can give our children to take away," Deyan Sudjic, Director of the Design Museum said at the opening. "And if we think about what the digital camera and the mobile phone are doing, they're destroying that."

The show features 14 designers working with digital media including Yves BĂ©har, Ron Arad and Philippe Malouin who used CERN's Large Hadron Collider as inspiration for his spinning crystal piece. Exploring the meaning of memories in the digital age and what our relationship is going to be with them in the future it's the first step to bringing the problem of the products we own being non-existent into the forefront of public knowledge and discussion.

But you do have to ask yourself, do people even care enough to listen to these warnings? Or are we just gearing up to shout one big I TOLD YOU SO at the masses when they complain they don't have any tangible memories to hand down to their children? I sort of wish Bruce Willis would have kept quiet about the fact he wasn't actually suing Apple for the rights for his children to inherit his music collection, just so we could have this discussion in the papers for that little while longer.

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