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Digital Possessions

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We’ve been thinking and writing a bit about digital possessions in recent days, and I came across an interesting study detailing how Brits view their virtual possessions. For context, the study was commissioned by the cloud services company Rackspace, but carried out independently in partnership with the Centre for Creative and Social Technology at University of London.

Quoted below are some of the findings that caught my eye.

Image: arklo galicia (Flickr)

31 per cent of Brits say they have considered digital possessions as a potential ‘digital inheritance’ that they could leave behind when they die….11 per cent have addressed their digital entities with care – e.g. they have left passwords to their digital treasures in their will – or are at least planning to do so.

Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of UK adults estimate that they have digital treasures worth more than £200 per person in the cloud, which amounts to at least £2.3bn across the nation.

This question of the value of our digital possessions is an interesting one. People readily pay for a song on iTunes, to download a ringtone, or to buy an object the want in an online social game…but how do you measure the value of a flickr photo collection that you’ve created and curated over the course of a decade? Or the value of being able to search a decades’ worth of emails in your gmail account?

There’s no clear answer, but as noted above, a quarter of Brits say they have digital treasures worth £200 in the cloud. (I’m guessing that this estimate is for things like itunes songs — and underestimates the real value as it makes no account for personal labor or sentimental value.)

Still, people are starting to think about how to compensate and protect digital possessions. In summer 2010, ZDNet reported on a Chinese insurance company that has created a product for online game companies to protect against loss or theft of virtual property. So if a gamer’s virtual property is lost or stolen, the game company will be covered to compensate the player for their loss. I looked briefly but couldn’t find if the service flew or flopped – but it’s an interesting concept and as digital possessions become more important to our lives, we’ll see more like this.

Finally, a cool design concept that I found related to virtual possessions. Check out Jinhee Kim’s concept for the Stampy Digital Camera, which would let you create a rubber stamp from any digital photo. A nice example of meeting an emerging consumer need: How to make our digital stuff more tangible and present in the physical world.

~Chris Carbone

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