One of the mantras of Service Design is that we are moving from a society in which our identity is constructed through consumption of products, to one in which our identity is contructed through the services we use. I know this is a black and white view, and its really a blurry mix of these things. Its not a new view either. However, recently I have begun to realise that this move is becoming more and more visible, and the weighting product/service is shifting. Maybe it is moving towards a tipping point.
Firstly, social networks are obviously now becoming a major source of our projected and desired identities. Facebook is a great example of this, and it seems to be deepening and strengthening through numerous other sites. Just do a search for somebody on Google, and see how their identity is created for you through the links it throws at you.
Secondly, products are increasingly becoming carriers of services, and its the services that we value. The iPhone is probably the best (and most overused example) of this. What interests me is that the iPhone as a product seems to be less and less important in terms of identity construction, its the apps that are on there that are key. Not the number of apps, but which apps people have chosen to put there, seem to be defining people these days.
Thirdly, and the reason I am writing this post, there seems to be a strong rise in replacing product ownership with rental. Car rental, bike rental, animal rental – you name it. I guess this is still object based, but its blurring the edges even more, and it seems that, like apps, the combination of what you rent, and where you rent from is more important than the objects themselves. This links to the emotional value of services and the idealistic values that can be attributed to some aspects of it. I was fascinated to read this post from the putting people first blog (link) describing an article in the Italian newspaper LaStampa (link) last year. It states that Italians are dropping ownership in favour of renting, listing typical things such as cars and property but also some other things such as cameras and…
You can even rent vegetable gardens and land workers who will take care of a small patch of garden for a couple of euros a day, and deliver your vegetables at home.
To me, this seems to fit together to describe a period in history, in which we moved from products to services for not just functional needs, but also emotional and idealistic. If this is true (and I might be wrong here), we can expect to see a strong increase in services as identity bearers in the future. I’m not sure what they will look like, and how we will make them conspicuous, because unless we are conspicuous about them, then they don’t help project identity. Where will they come from and what will they be like? Any ideas?