February 22, 2012
Why Digital Inheritance Matters
PandoDaily seems to be rapidly becoming the site I disagree with all the time. It happened again this morning, with a piece arguing that our children won't want to inherit our digital music collections:
Passing your iTunes collection down to your kids isn't the modern day equivalent to your dad passing his vinyl collection down to you.
Once you take away the physical element*, there is no sense of nostalgia inherent to that file itself. While there may be many a memory associated with a specific album or song, any copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy that you hand down holds no more sentimental value than a copy of that same song sitting on YouTube. You're not giving them something of yours, but a distant manifestation of something you paid for.
To which I say: bullshit. I have my parents' digital music collection in my iTunes library. It might not be the very same bits on the very same spinning platter that they used. (The hard drive still exists, though - it's in the same iMac, but it lives at my brother's place in France). As I outlined in a comment on that post, I paid to upgrade those tracks to a DRM-free format, just so I could listen to the music my parents chose when the mood took me. It may not be a physical pile of vinyl I can display in some form of physical shrine, but it is a tangible link to my late parents.
To say that it's a physical object that is most resonant of a deceased person is arrant nonsense. The most important thing is the choices they made, and that digital music collection is a set of those choices made manifest. I can click on that playlist, click play, and be taken back to my parents' house in Suffolk in an instant.
Our digital choices matter. Our digital inheritance matters.
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