Consider, for a moment, that Americans have attained what only
the most disciplined practitioners of Buddhism achieve after a
lifetime of spiritual devotion: freedom from material possessions
and detachment from desire.
Now back to reality. Consumerism rather than spiritual
transcendence defines our buying habits, but what we’re consuming
(and desiring) is changing in ways that suggest we place less value
on material goods than we do on immaterial experiences.
Maisonneuve, Daisy Goldstein argues
that increasingly disposable fashion — trendy, affordable,
ephemeral attire – and online shopping are primary agents
changing the way our culture thinks about possessions. We no
longer expect goods to last — and since the internet makes them
so accessible, they don’t need to.
This 21st century consumer has been dubbed the
transumer. The term, according to a piece from
Trendwatching.com that Goldstein cites, was
coined by Fitch, a consumer experience design company, to
describe the consumer in transit at airports. Between flights,
travelers are sought-after consumers, loaded as they often are
with savings for their travels. Looking for temporary, portable
distraction along the way to their next destinations, travelers
will spend without qualms on immediate entertainment and
souvenirs — no matter if the souvenir is one of hundreds just
like it. After all, it isn’t about the originality of the object
per se, but about the experience it is a part of.
Digital media is uniquely positioned to sate this desire for
experience over tangibility. In
‘How the Consumer Thought Process in Purchasing
Cultural Goods Is Changing,’Tikkun‘s Charlie
Bertsh recounts his experience opting to buy a real CD instead
of downloading a favorite artist’s new album. He muses: ‘Maybe
we’ve entered the era of low-fidelity, where what matters is not
how good our copies are, but what we can do with them.
Portability and a freedom from time constraints may be more
important to people now than either quality or authenticity.’ He
suggests that while we no longer need to possess tangible
objects, we’re still consumers — only now we lust after the
latest experience rather than the latest thing. And as we scour
the internet for cheap flights and rare albums, we aren’t so
much transcending consumerism as we are reinventing it.
Go there >>
Transumers ‘R Us
Go there, too >>
Related Links from the Utne Reader
Devil Wears Prada and Drives a Hummer
Your Money Where Your Heart Is
with Disposability: An Interview with Giles Slade
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