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The Paradoxes of Choice in Digital Culture

DIGITAL WORLD (Hypebot) – i.e. What File Sharing Changed

1. Passive Selection Habits—It let us live with decisions not yet made and caused us to become more passive about their deletion.

Such as, if a new album is out and you wanted to try it without restrictions on your iPod, you download it. After a listen or two, you find out, as it often times happens, that it wasn’t as quite as good as the Amazon reviewers proclaimed it to be. So, into the virtual trash bin it goes.

2. Future Music Experiences—It has taught us that we know less about ourselves than we think and that our assumptions about what we like now and may like in the future are often times wrong.

Such as, if you download an album and forget about it. Months later, you’re looking through your download folder and can’t imagine why you would’ve ever liked this music. In Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert concluded that people generally err in imagining what will make them happy and often times, they tend to repeat the same errors.

3. Righting Subjective Wrongs—It has let a our irrational reasoning to right our subjective wrongs.

Such as, if someone steals your CD collection and you feel it was an honest mistake to leave your car unlocked, it does not seem as dishonest to download and burn your collection back into its rightful place.

4. Decision Simulation—It is a flight simulator where we crash often, but get to learn about ourselves in the process.

Such as, various generations have grown up in an environment where they can fail at trying everything and commit to nothing. In some ways, removing the paradox of choice from the equation, and for the most part eliminating the dissatisfaction and regret that could've went along with it making the real purchase.

5. Accelerated Taste Development—It let us explore choices without risk, which allowed us to develop your taste in previously unknown genres without hindrance of committing.

Such as, downloading every obscure genre under the sun and letting them grow on you overtime. In other words, using pirated music to create your own iPod radio station that exposes you to it gradually over time.

6. Blurred Line of Ownership—It has continuously blurred the line between what we already own in a physical form and what used to be the cost of format upgrading.

Such as, Jeff Price at TuneCorner writes, “If you already own the complete works of U2 on CD, are you actually doing anything illegal if you download all of the same music via a peer to peer or bit-torrent networking or are you simply saving yourself the trouble of having to “rip” your CDs to your computer?”

7. The Life Cycle of a Song—It has decreased the lifecycle of a song as it permeates through the masses, but in turn, it has increased the life of the song in general to the extent of ‘forever.’

Such as, if you have an Internet connection, chances are you can access popular music in almost anywhere in the world. Thus, you never have to wait for it to be made available where you are nor do you have to wait for an album to be reissued into a store.

8. The Definition of Control—Who would you rather give control of your music to?

The Paradox of the Recording Industry is that you have to sign away ownership of your music to a record label, hope that it goes to your fans, and is promoted well enough to reach potential fans.

The Paradox of the Digital Age is that you have to give away the music the music that you own to your fans and hope that they promote it well enough to reach potential fans.

The catch being that neither tends to have reliable results, should be trusted to promote your music, nor are a surefire way to make money as an artist. – Kyle Bylin, Hypebot Associate Editor