I’ve been watching a lot of Deep Space Nine recently, a show I loved watching as a kid. It turns out that it’s the show’s 20th anniversary this year. It only slightly shows – it’s aged quite well.
I’ve read a few articles over the last few years that credit DS9 and Star Trek: The Next Generation with inspiring things like the iPad, Skype and touch-screen computers. It’s certainly true that they’re part of the show’s fabric, and they’re used in exactly the same way we use them now. But there’s a behavioural trait that hasn’t carried into today’s design.
Even in DS9, Star Trek‘s most dystopian spin-off, not a one of these devices appears to be owned. They’re passed around like print-outs, or copies of the Metro. The mundanity of the object – and of the access it offers to the sum total of intergalactic knowledge – is essential to the pacing of each episode. No-one cares who has what.
(Aside: I’d love to read fiction about the ‘procurement wars’ for these kind of objects. What would companies have done before the Federation made production a function of the intergalactic state?)
I’m thinking about that absence of ownership in relation to Sandsmark, the audio project I’m poking at in my spare time. Some MP3 players cost less than a paperback book, and are socially much less coveted. What happens when these get passed around? Will people exchange these single-use devices without worrying about losing possessions?