Is the importance of mobile content portability overstated?

On January 1st, Danah Boyd wrote an interesting entry about teenagers’ ephemeral online profiles. A quote:

Teens are not dreaming of portability (like so many adults i meet). They are happy to make new accounts on new sites; they enjoy building out profiles. (Part of this could be that they have a lot more time on their hands.) The idea of taking MySpace material to Facebook when they transition is completely foreign. They’re going to a new site, they want to start over.

This got me thinking — can this idea also be applied on Japanese teenagers and their mobile download behavior? Could it be, for instance, that the importance of content portability between different devices is overstated, and that most people don’t really care about whether the stuff they download to their phone is DRMed or not? Maybe the mobile ringtones/-tunes, wallpapers, screensavers, menus, games and apps (almost all of them DRMed) that people download are perceived as a sort of throwaway personalization building blocks, and not so much as “purchased media” one ought to be able to play on different devices. This would mean that every time you buy a new phone, you start all over again collecting the right music, graphics, etc. — rebuilding your mobile identity(*), if you will. And yes, that is exactly what most Japanese cell phone owners seem to be doing with every new phone they own.

I would like to point out that the paragraphs above don’t change my stance towards DRM (I still think it’s a bad idea) — I am only searching for an explanation of the ever rising mobile downloads, and Japanese customers’ apparent indifference towards mobile DRM and its impact on cross-device portability (let alone on fair use, etc).

What do you think? Thoughts, additions?

(*) The difference with a profile on a social networking site is of course that the mobile identity building mentioned above isn’t really visible to the outside world (except for people seeing your mobile phone screen). However, judging from the number of digital and real world keitai mods that are available nowadays, I think it’s safe to say that purchasing GUI enhancements, wallpapers, ringtones, etc. is more about personal customization and mobile identity, than about building a full-fledged media library (as you’d do on your computer).

Comments on “Is the importance of mobile content portability overstated?” (feed)

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  1. As a music producer, a proponent of portability in general, and a community manager for a site ( which would very much like to users (bands and musics fans) to be able to move content in and out of our network with ease, I found this concept that “the kids don’t mind” very interesting. I can almost understand the desire to “start fresh” with a new network, IF the social experience of actually building the network and contacts etc is what you are there for. For many a band, really ought to be active on DOZENS of hundreds of mp3 hosting/music social network sites, portability would improve the experience for EVERYONE, most of all browsers and fans who would MUCH less often wind up viewing a site with “no bio” “no blog entries” 1 picture and a few songs… This is a consistent problem across the board in music, I’ve found. Bring on portability for the rest of us!

    » ian beaty on March 31st, 2007 at 08:41

  2. mobile phones should be allowed in skewl

    » kutty on April 24th, 2007 at 23:30