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Fragmented ownership and the fencing in of digital virtual possessions

By Rebecca Watkins

Abstract

Consumer researchers have long striven to understand the role of consumption in the lives of individuals, with material possessions acknowledged to play a significant role in meaning making, inter-personal relationships and identity projects. Increasingly many of our possessions take on a digital virtual form, and alongside digital photographs, eBooks and digital music we see the emergence of accounts and content hosted online by, for example, social media platforms, email providers and online games. In this presentation we map out a range of ownership configurations in the digital virtual good (DVG) market, recognizing fragmented forms whereby consumers hold a \ud bundle of limited rights to their DVGs. We consider ownership as a grammar or order that sets out a referential configuration for how owners, things, practices and other people should interact in possession, and illustrate that such fragmented ownership in the digital virtual erects boundaries relative to possession. Drawing from a range of examples from the DVG market we propose that (1) limited rights to use and transform may inhibit the cultivation of meaningful DVGs, (2) inability to transfer these rights may problematise established practices such as sharing, lending, bequeathing and passing on of goods, (3) lack of continuity of consumers’ limited property rights may result in tense possession which may be problematic where cherished DVGs have become closely interwoven with consumers’ sense of self. In short, where ownership in the digital virtual relies on market institutions, be it Amazon, iTunes or Facebook, as the orchestrating node around which knowledges, people, things, artefacts and practices in possession converge, the alignment between self, object and others required for meaningful possession is degraded. This produces a configuration of possession where access to, use and management of goods as well their use as linking devices to others, are compromised

Topics: H1, HM
OAI identifier: oai:http://orca.cf.ac.uk:67680
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