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Several months ago, as we began mentally preparing to move apartments, my girlfriend nodded toward two gray linen boxes that had long sat untouched at the base of our TV stand. “What’s in those?” she asked. I told her they held my DVDs. “When have you ever watched those?” she asked, rhetorical and correct. She wanted to know if, in the name of optimizing space in our next home, we could dump both the boxes and their contents.

It was a reasonable ask. I couldn’t remember the last time I had even thought about my DVDs; if quizzed on the boxes’ inventories, I might have struggled for a passing grade. Whatever was in there could surely be streamed via some subscription service we already held or else replaced with a digital purchase, and in either case could be flexibly enjoyed on more devices than just the living room TV connected to my Xbox One.

Still, something more than nostalgia made me balk. Streaming requires continued payments to rent access to a library prone to changes beyond my control. Digital purchases come with byzantine restrictions and often rely on that platform’s continued existence and a sustained, quality internet connection. Relying even more heavily on these models felt like a further concession to the powers that already wield such outsize influence over our 21st-century lives, not only through streaming and digital goods but increasingly through the internet-embedded everything around us. There was something comfortingly self-sufficient about the idea that, in theory, the only thing stopping me from watching Pee-wee’s Big Adventure for free whenever I damn well pleased was an act of God, or at least a power outage. And there was something uncomfortable about sacrificing that – about letting yet another aspect of life slip fully into the intangible digital ether.

Still, this miniature act of bulwarking aside, I am among the many Americans who habitually convert their property into digital forms. According to CNBC, US DVD sales , while comparatively modest Blu-ray revenues have fallen some 24 percent since their 2013 peak. At the same time, three-quarters of American households subscribe to at least one video streaming service, whose revenues now dominate the home market.

The erosion of personal ownership

Similar trends exist in other media: Digital music sales surpassed physical ones in 2011, only for streaming to overtake digital purchases five years later; last year, digital video game sales outpaced their physical counterpart, while subscription models continue to grow in popularity. With the advent of NFTs, the art and collectibles markets are now exploding in goods’ most aggressively impalpable form yet.

These dual trends – the rise of purchased and subscription-based non-physical media – are driven by the benefits such consumption provides, chiefly convenience. Digital and streaming Irlanti morsiamet virasto media generally offer minimal effort to access and strong portability without physical degradation or the constraints imposed by taking up physical space (say, in a box on a TV stand). But such benefits do impose costs, like streaming’s aforementioned unending billing cycles and lack of library control, or the limits a digital purchaser faces when trying to lend or resell their wares. In fact, as some digital consumers have found out firsthand, they may suddenly no longer have their purchases at all.

On a larger scale, these trends are transforming the way we relate to our possessions, and thus to ourselves and the world around us. “I am what I have,” Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in his essential existentialist text Being and Nothingness in 1949. Four decades later, York University professor Russell W. Belk coined the term “extended self” to describe how humans incorporate their belongings into their self-conception. “The greater the control we exercise,” Belk wrote, “the more closely allied with self the object should become.” They may also help place us within space and time, reflecting our past (a souvenir from a long-ago vacation) and our planned future (the new yoga mat meant to inspire routine practice). Thanks to what is known as the endowment effect, we tend to value these objects in our possession over their equivalents.