The Age of Digital Consumption

Currently, the digital world is the ravenous consumer’s playground. It is an environment that is ripe with plenty of opportunity for consumers to do just what they were born to do: consume. A place where one can frolic about on Twitter, Facebook and other forms of media aggregators and listen to new music, watch their favorite television shows and read endless pamphlets of information at their own whim. And the best part is that most of it can be had for free, and all of it is readily accessible.

And with the advent of smartphones and tablets, the allure of consumption over utility in our personal computing devices has become even more prominent. Tablets especially have been seemingly created solely to allow us to consume. The iPad, with its simple user interface and somewhat unwieldy but mostly useful app store places a heavy emphasis on consumption, with such useful apps as Flipboard, Zite and Netflix all being insanely popular apps that are aimed solely at the issue of consumption. And further, the iPad’s accounting for more mobile traffic than smartphones only works to reemphasize its role as a consumption device.

But Apple hasn’t been the only company that has started to see a trend. Amazon, too, has begun to take note, with the imminent launch of their Kindle Fire planning to take the world by storm by introducing a tablet that not only works to supplement the experience of the Internet, but one that also thrives on consumption.

And Amazon’s tablet does so by placing making its reason to exist — its raison d’etre — centered around Amazon’s various different digital streaming and cloud services. Between the Kindle bookstore, Amazon’s video store and the thousands upon thousands of different songs that Amazon sells through their online store, Amazon is hoping that consumers who purchase the Kindle Fire will also want to buy plenty of videos and other content to help offset the loss that they plan on taking on every device sold.

And with the proliferation of these devices, we have begun to see a profound shift in just what sort of applications and products have become widely available. In this age of consumption, companies have shifted more towards creating better, more efficient ways to consume, rather than develop intriguing applications that create utility for users. Yes, those utilities still exist (and always will) but they are becoming less and less prominent among the insane clutter that is the world of digital media.

And because most of these experiences, particularly on smart phones and tablets, are at our fingertips, it is much easier and plausible for us to do things that are consumption related. Surfing the web, watching movies and reading books are all more practical on tablets than doing productivity related tasks such as word processing.

But what does this all mean for the future of computing? For one, it marks an important shift in what we expect from our devices. Laptops and desktop computers are perfect for utility-related purposes, but now the idea of consumption is catered more towards smaller, transportable devices like smartphones and tablets. These devices are practically made for our own feverish and seemingly insatiable hunger for digital goods.

And yet, this was almost an expected shift. When computers were initially conceived, the idea that they would one day be used to listen to music, watch videos and read entire books was farfetched. They were used to calculate things and to store important information. That still exists today, but now — and especially due to the proliferation of digital media — we rely on personal devices more in acquiring information rather than creating or storing it. We consume things because it’s exceptionally easy and rewarding these days.

How do you think digital media has changed the way we view personal computing?



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