In the physical world, interactions between people are remembered. Sometimes the interaction leaves behind physical artifacts. Letters are frequently treasured objects – remembrances of love, loss, and revolution. Photos of people long gone often become family heirlooms.
That fact that interactions help form our self identity and our bonds to other people reminds us that people are social creatures. So it shouldn’t surprise us that online social media is consuming the Web. An online analogy of an offline biological imperative seems like a natural extension for humanity.
All this online social interaction leaves behind artifacts, too. Tweets, Facebook messages, photos, videos and comment streams of all sorts.
So do these interactions belong to their creators or all the participants? If you are in your friend’s photo, is it also part of your identity? I would venture to say “yes”. But this affirmation raises some serious questions about ownership and our ideas of assets.
If virtual assets are going to be archived and permanently associated with a person, what assets should go into storage? Every picture that you take? Every picture that you are tagged in? Every picture that you talk about with our friends?
Is it possible that the interaction is the asset and that all the participants are the owners?
It seems to me that the old model of creator and creation – owner and asset may become outmoded. I see a new model of interaction and participant. But it isn’t that easy. User agreements form the only legal framework available, and they often state that service is the owner of the interaction.
Would a service that captures and archives the interaction make sense? Are the interactions out of context valuable?