2 Products, Contexts and Capacities
cess to a series of entirely pre-programmed and pre-designed experiences, as long as one has the money to pay for them. Meanwhile, others, who can not afford the entry ticket, are forced to stay out. It is absolutely evident that it is hard to come to another socially so unsustainable idea, as dividing the society between the haves, who are in the playpen, plunged into some programmed experience, and the havenots, who stay behind the gates dreaming about entrance. Now, on an environmental level the access-based well-being might seem favourable to the sustainable society at first sight. As a matter of fact, for a certain time period the emerging access-based society appeared as a promising opportunity. Because it breaks the equation more products = more well-being and introduces a new formula, more information + more services + more experiences = more well-being, it is a way of living that is based on relations and intangible goods (information and experience). Therefore, it was thought that if access-based well-being were to reach a dominant position, then the consumption system would become naturally and painlessly more sustainable. Unfortunately, this hope for an easy way to sustainability has found its disappointing end: the experience of the last decade has demonstrated the unsustainability of the freshly emerged notion about living standards, at least in this spontaneous manner as it appears today.
2.3.2 The Material Ballast of Information We have to admit that, despite all efforts and fostered illusions, the motivations behind the growing consumption of natural resources are in abundance. One of the fundamental reasons is nestled in the fact that the much vaunted information services, intangible goods and access to experiences on a large scale are inclined to increase, not substitute, the traditional consumption of resources (we can read all the books and listen to all the music we wish for, but we will not give up the air-conditioner or a new technological gadget). The second reason lies in the fact that the substitution of material benefits for intangible ones will not cause an inevitable reduction in consumption per se: airfares, staying in hotels, and visiting theme parks do in fact demand a whole array of access-dedicated artefacts that evidently have a material essence and inherent consumption (to keep them operational). The third motivation, perhaps less immediate than the first two, can be summarised thus; even though “information replaces materials”, in the current economic and cultural context, “information brings along material ballast”, and the increase in the information flow tends to create new consumption opportunities. As an optimal explanation, the spread of efficient communication systems (from the phone to e-mail and video conferencing) allows people to be in contact from great distances, without moving themselves. All true, but nevertheless, at least until now, it has not diminished the overall demand for transportation. The answer to this prima facie paradox is in the end very simple: long-distance con-
Published on Nov 17, 2010
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