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).