Can you own something intangible? Probably yes, but we are not yet prepared as human beings for the total transition from the physical world to the purely digital. Still, there is a “compulsion” towards the accumulation of files on all electronic devices: the digital Diogenes syndrome .
His condition -originally related to all kinds of physical objects- not only has psychological implications, but also economic, efficiency and even environmental costs, says Bethlem Boronat, director of the Master in Customer Experience & Innovation at EAE Business School.
How much does Diogenes syndrome cost Mexicans?
When people indiscriminately accumulate files, not only do they have a clutter problem in their lives, but they are also incurring economic waste, in terms of computer storage costs.
“If we consider that the average price of 200GB of storage for individuals in Mexico is around 50 pesos, we could say that we regularly waste 42 and a half pesos of our quota” estimates Bethlem. But this is not just an individual problem.
According to a study by Computer Business Review, 85% of the data stored by companies is useless. But although the apparent intangibility of the data is misleading, in reality they do occupy a physical space in the world.
Servers, computers and hard drives where useless or repetitive data is stored are made of minerals and plastics and not only that, they constantly use energy. Therefore, they have an ecological footprint.
So Diogenes syndrome has a high cost to society from this perspective.
How to combat Diogenes syndrome?
In the specialist’s opinion, order is essential to manage and decide which files are important. If everything has its place in a house, why shouldn’t every file have it? This principle helps to discriminate what information fits in each compartment, according to its characteristics.
But as the abundance of information can generate addiction to ‘having’ and keeping files, it is important to give them a specific weight. One option is to choose those photos that are going to be added to the family or friends album and discard those that would not take place there.
Another, very similar to emulating the physical world, is to choose a list of songs that someone would like to have on a disc and discard the ones that are barely played from time to time.
That is, “try to find a slightly lower technology intermediation”, between the digital and the physical.
In that evolutionary process that I was talking about before, our mind still has difficulties to feel “owner” of something intangible. But I think there are many ways in which tangibility and intangibility can be coordinated.