It’s About the Journey, Not the Ownership

This week’s question lends itself to so many specific examples, I felt a bit dizzy trying to decide what particular examples to write about in relation to the changing nature ownership in my lifetime. (Short answer: so many things.)

So, I figured I’d take a step back and discuss the changing nature of ownership in general – specifically, how the pleasure of ownership has been replaced with the pleasure leading up to ownership. (Hence the overly cute title of this blog post… apologies.)

In 2013, Russell Belk updated his landmark study published in the Journal of Consumer Research with a game-changing finding: The up-and-coming Generation Y is the first cohort not to rank ownership as the most appealing part of shopping. Rather, it was the decision process leading up to that decision, usually in the form of reading online reviews and comparing options for purchase (Belk).

This rings true.

For me, the process of discovery for books – let’s use that as an example – is more important and satisfying than ownership. This could involve browsing GoodReads or library shelves. Even the act of finding a good deal at a used bookstore like BMV is more of the appeal of shopping than the ownership of the product, in my experience. While I may insist on having all of the books by a favorite author, I am happy to borrow books and add them to a reading log (e.g. GoodReads) in place of ownership.

That said, all of the choices and information about products can make even the simplest decisions comically fraught

Set of book icons in flat design style.
Some colourful books to make this post more fun! (Licensed image owned by author).

Works cited:

Belk, Russell W. “Extended Self in a Digital World.” Journal of Consumer Research 40 (3): 477-500. 2013. Web. 20 March 2016.

One thought on “It’s About the Journey, Not the Ownership”

  1. Two things:

    1) We have a favourite author in common.

    2) The only time I’ve ever been to a Chipotle (I think you were there?) I had Aziz Ansari’s bag and thought it was hilarious.

    Oh, also, I think this is an interesting point about the journey towards ownership (or the bypassing of). I wonder how this might link in to the sharing economy (as we know well) and various ‘libraries of things’ that cater to a generation perhaps less interested in commodity ownership? This makes me think of how curating programs like GoodReads might lead to a more sustainable form of interaction with bookish things. Could you ever imagine a world where no one owned books, only borrowed them? Part of me loves the idea and part of me cringes as I think of my own well-curated collection that I cherish so. I think this raises an interesting question about the significance of ownership, and what we deem ‘important enough’ to own and to call our own.

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