Cult of less: Living out of a hard drive By Matthew Danzico - BBC News, Washington Many have begun trading in CD, DVD, and book collections for digital music, movies, and e-books. But this trend in digital technology is now influencing some to get rid of nearly all of their physical possessions - from photographs to furniture to homes altogether. Let's face it - digital files, applications and web services are replacing the need for many of the physical goods that pepper our homes, crowd our desks and fill our closets. From online photo albums to virtual filing cabinets to digital musical instruments, hi-tech replacements are becoming ubiquitous. But as goods continue to make the leap from the bookshelf to the hard drive, some individuals are taking the opportunity to radically change their lifestyles.
'21st-Century minimalist' - Meet Kelly Sutton, a spiky-haired 22-year-old software engineer with thick-rimmed glasses and an empty apartment in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood - a hotbed for New York's young, early adopters of new technology. Mr. Sutton is the founder of CultofLess.com, a website which has helped him sell or give away his possessions - apart from his laptop, an iPad, an Amazon Kindle, two external hard drives, a "few" articles of clothing and bed sheets for a mattress that was left in his newly rented apartment. This 21st-Century minimalist says he got rid of much of his clutter because he felt the ever-increasing number of available digital goods have provided adequate replacements for his former physical possessions. "I think cutting down on physical commodities in general might be a trend of my generation - cutting down on physical commodities that can be replaced by digital counterparts will be a fact," said Mr. Sutton. The tech-savvy Los Angeles "transplant" credits his external hard drives and online services like iTunes, Hulu, Flickr, Facebook, Skype and Google Maps for allowing him to lead a minimalist life. "I think the shift to all digital formats in all methods and forms of media consumption is inevitable and coming very quickly," said Mr. Sutton. And Mr. Sutton may be right. Consumer electronic book sales tripled between 2008 and 2009, while the growth of physical book sales slowed, according to the Association of American Publishers. Meanwhile, compact disc sales have declined by roughly 50% from their 2005 levels worldwide, while global revenue from digital music has nearly quadrupled in the same period, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.
Virtual homelessness - Chris Yurista, a DJ from Washington, DC, cites this trend in digital music as one reason he was able to hand over the keys to his basement apartment over a year ago. "It's always nice to have a personal sense of home, but that aside - the internet has replaced my need for an address," the 27-year-old said. Since boxing up his physical possessions and getting rid of his home, Mr Yurista has taken to the streets with a backpack full of designer clothing, a laptop, an external hard drive, a small piano keyboard and a bicycle - an armful of goods that totals over $3,000 (£1,890) in value. The American University graduate, who spends much of his time basking in the glow emanating from his Macbook, earns a significant income at his full-time job as a travel agent and believes his new life on the digital grid is less cluttered than his old life on the physical one. "I don't feel a void living the way I'm living because I've figured out a way to use digital technology to my advantage," Mr Yurista explained. Mr Yurista feels by digitizing his life, he no longer has to worry about dusting, organizing and cleaning his possessions. And he says his new intangible goods can continue to live on indefinitely with little maintenance. "Things like records snap and wear down over time. It's upsetting. MP3s don't," he said. Continued on next page………