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Post-Ownership Society – Track That Meme!

I’ve been thinking about what I’ve termed, in my head at least, a “Post-Ownership Society.” This was spurred by an interview conducted of me on user experience trends 55 years into the future. One thing that’s clear is that the importance people associate with owning stuff will decrease. It will be supplanted by access, experiences, and the act of creation.

This is a meme I’m starting to track. Kevin Kelly wrote about how access is better than ownership in a post on his blog, “Better Than Owning”.

Kelly focuses much of his discussion on media, where it’s patently obvious that in 5-10 years we’ll all be subscribing to access to The Media Cloud, listening/watching/reading pretty much whatever we want when we want (with some exceptions, notably live events).

My key realization about post-ownership is something Kelly neglects to mention — carsharing. So I found it interesting that The New York Times published a lengthy feature last weekend on this emerging phenomenon. (I’ve had this post brewing for a while, so this struck me as serendipitous.)

A few weeks ago NPR’s Science Friday featured an interview with a quantitative psychologist who found that experiences, not things, lead to longer term happiness. (This was presented in the context of Valentine’s Day, and what you should give your honey.)

In early February BusinessWeek had an article on falling prices, though it turns out the prices that fell in 2008 for products; the price of services rose last year.

At the end of last year, futurist Paul Saffo spoke on KQED’s Forum about the emerging Creator Economy, which will push out the Consumer Economy.

I’m bummed I didn’t get to see Lane and Thor’s talk on “The End of Obsolescence: Engineering the Post-Consumer Economy,” as I’m sure it touches on this as well.

I’m excited about this development because I’ve long been an advocate of Less Stuff, and I think it provides a remarkable opportunity for those of us who work in the area of designing for services and experiences.

  1. There is many an advocate of Less Stuff, but few practioners, at least by choice.

  2. There was me thinking that Less Stuff meant that the people who make stuff wouldn’t have a job. I hadn’t thought that the people having Less Stuff would need more services and experiences.

  3. We’ve worked for a couple of months now on an interesting electric car project here in Denmark. And last year, we did a cultural immersion for a Japanese manufacturer interested in alternatively powered vehicles.

    The conclusion we at FatDUX has come to is that in the future, we’ll have access to a range of cars, but we won’t necessarily own them. This fits nicely with your basic premise of post-ownershipism.

    For example, folks will use small two-seaters for scooting around town and squeezing into a tight parking spot. But they’ll use roomier, more comfortable cars when they take a family vacation. Or use something truck-like if they have to move stuff.

    I can see this happening in Europe. But will a car-obsessed/reliant nation such as the U.S. share this thought?

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