This week’s focus is on digital ethics and how ethical issues are raised by the Internet with respect to ownership. My professor offered us one of four prompts; I chose to answer the following: Have we come to expect that information should be free, and if so, how does that affect what we see and read?
I think we live in a time when we expect a lot of things for free, or if not free, then as cheap as possible. Gone are the days when we had to pay for craft that we wanted to purchase, whether it was music, literature, or film. Now we can read, listen, and stream online, all at little or no cost to us.
When I was growing up, I can remember placing my tape recorder as close to the radio speaker as possible; I wanted to record my favourite song (probably something by Michael Jackson or Duran Duran). I hated when the DJ would speak over the music; I didn’t want to hear his voice! I wanted to hear “Billie Jean” or “Hungry Like the Wolf.” Nonetheless, I would record these songs onto my cassette and name them with labels like “Fave Songs!” or “Dance!!” I also remember having a VCR and recording all the episodes of “21 Jump Street” so that I could watch Johnny Depp whenever I wanted. These tapings didn’t stop me from buying albums or magazines that featured these artists, meaning I was still contributing to their royalties.
Now, of course, things have become much easier. With Spotify, for instance, I can select genre, artist, or playlist and listen for free. There is a premium plan which comes with no ads, but I’d rather use the free option. When the ads come on, I press the mute button for a few minutes (or not, depending on how far away I am from my laptop). I use Spotify in class and play requests from students as they work. It’s free, and it’s convenient. (note: I’d like to add that we just recently purchased a record player and have been scouring Singapore for albums from our youth. So far, we’ve collected The Police, The Beatles, and Prince, all on vinyl!)
As far as reading goes, I still enjoy reading books that I can hold in my hands. I own a Kobo and have downloaded books for much cheaper than I can purchase them at Indigo, but I tend to only use it when I’m traveling. Many of my students use their iPads or laptops to read. Whenever we have independent reading time in class, I always have at least three or four students with their laptops open, reading George R. R. Martin or the latest John Green.
It seems to me that having things available online for free has made the arts that much more accessible for us. We no longer have to worry about rushing to HMV (which have just recently announced permanent closure of all its stores across Canada) to buy the latest CD. We don’t have to make a trek to Indigo to rummage through shelves of books; we can do it all online for free.
I think the first part of this week’s prompt is more important than the second. We have come to expect that information should be free, so when something is unavailable, it becomes annoying. It’s almost as if it has inconvenienced us, and in a way, I guess it has. We are living in a time when instant gratification is the norm. In a 2016 article entitled “The Instant Gratification Generation,” author Sara Azmoudeh believes that “[people] either reach a false realization that everything in life is instant and easy, or people become more efficient” when information is available for free.
I’d like to believe that we become more efficient.
Azmoudeh, Sara. “The Instant Gratification Generation.” Odyssey, 28 June 2016,
“Bye Bye HMV: Canadian Retailer in Receivership with All Stores to Close.” CBCnews,
CBC/Radio Canada, 28 Jan. 2017, www.cbc.ca/news/business/struggling-hmv-canada-
Hawkins, Ken. “Ken Hawkins.” Flickr, Yahoo!, www.flickr.com/photos/khawkins04/.
“Music for Everyone.” Music for Everyone – Spotify, www.spotify.com/.