Monday, 16 August 2010

Virtual Homelessness and Minimalism

Cult of less:

Living out of a hard drive

Many have begun trading in CD, DVD, and book collections for digital music, movies, and e-books. But this trend in digital technology is now influencing some to get rid of nearly all of their physical possessions - from photographs to furniture to homes altogether.

Let's face it - digital files, applications and web services are replacing the need for many of the physical goods that pepper our homes, crowd our desks and fill our closets.

From online photo albums to virtual filing cabinets to digital musical instruments, hi-tech replacements are becoming ubiquitous.

But as goods continue to make the leap from the bookshelf to the hard drive, some individuals are taking the opportunity to radically change their lifestyles.

'21st-Century minimalist'

Meet Kelly Sutton, a spiky-haired 22-year-old software engineer with thick-rimmed glasses and an empty apartment in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighbourhood - a hotbed for New York's young, early adopters of new technology.

Mr Sutton is the founder of, a website which has helped him sell or give away his possessions - apart from his laptop, an iPad, an Amazon Kindle, two external hard drives, a "few" articles of clothing and bed sheets for a mattress that was left in his newly rented apartment.

This 21st-Century minimalist says he got rid of much of his clutter because he felt the ever-increasing number of available digital goods have provided adequate replacements for his former physical possessions.

"I think cutting down on physical commodities in general might be a trend of my generation - cutting down on physical commodities that can be replaced by digital counterparts will be a fact," said Mr Sutton.

The tech-savvy Los Angeles "transplant" credits his external hard drives and online services like iTunes, Hulu, Flickr, Facebook, Skype and Google Maps for allowing him to lead a minimalist life.

"I think the shift to all digital formats in all methods and forms of media consumption is inevitable and coming very quickly," said Mr Sutton.

And Mr Sutton may be right.

Consumer electronic book sales tripled between 2008 and 2009, while the growth of physical book sales slowed, according to the Association of American Publishers.

Meanwhile, compact disc sales have declined by roughly 50% from their 2005 levels worldwide, while global revenue from digital music has nearly quadrupled in the same period, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

Virtual homelessness

Chris Yurista, a DJ from Washington, DC, cites this trend in digital music as one reason he was able to hand over the keys to his basement apartment over a year ago.

"It's always nice to have a personal sense of home, but that aside - the internet has replaced my need for an address," the 27-year-old said.

Since boxing up his physical possessions and getting rid of his home, Mr Yurista has taken to the streets with a backpack full of designer clothing, a laptop, an external hard drive, a small piano keyboard and a bicycle - an armful of goods that totals over $3,000 (£1,890) in value.

The American University graduate, who spends much of his time basking in the glow emanating from his Macbook, earns a significant income at his full-time job as a travel agent and believes his new life on the digital grid is less cluttered than his old life on the physical one.

"I don't feel a void living the way I'm living because I've figured out a way to use digital technology to my advantage," Mr Yurista explained.

Mr Yurista feels by digitising his life, he no longer has to worry about dusting, organising and cleaning his possessions. And he says his new intangible goods can continue to live on indefinitely with little maintenance.

"Things like records snap and wear down over time. It's upsetting. MP3s don't," he said.

The DJ has now substituted his bed for friends' couches, paper bills for online banking, and a record collection containing nearly 2,000 albums for an external hard drive with DJ software and nearly 13,000 MP3s.

But Mr Yurista is not the only digital vagabond.

Joshua Klein, a New York City-based technology innovation consultant, also set out on the road with his hard drive.

He and his wife digitised their possessions, got rid of two-thirds of what they owned and headed to the streets of New York for nine months with their laptops.

But Mr Klein and Mr Yurista both admit there are risks involved.

Mr Klein says the lifestyle can become loathsome because "you never know where you will sleep". And Mr Yurista says he frequently worries he may lose his new digital life to a hard drive crash or downed server.

"You have to really make sure you have back-ups of your digital goods everywhere," he said.

Data crisis counsellor

Data recovery engineer Chris Bross agrees and says if individuals backed up their digital lives "they wouldn't need us when a failure occurs, and they wouldn't be in crisis".

As digital possessions shrink the need for physical property, data recovery companies like Drive Savers, DTI Recovery and Eco Data Recovery may become the emergency response teams of the future.

Mr Bross, a Drive Savers employee, believes as individuals grow increasingly dependent on "digital storage technology for holding all these assets that they used to hold more tangibly", data recovery services will become rather like the firefighters of the 21st Century - responders who save your valuables.

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laughingwolf said...

i do not trust anything will be 'safe' online, neither my pics, writings nor anything else...

one can take 'minimalism' to the ridiculous... but far be it from me to tell anyone what they should do....

ANNA-LYS said...

generation non-materialists
but digitalists at least

Osloskånskan said...

Hahahaha!!!*fniss* du e ju ente klok ju! (din kommentar hos mej)

ANNA-LYS said...

ha ha ha :-D
Det e ja visst ... inte ;-)
Å andra sidan är du totalt galen!

puerileuwaite said...

I've decided to give up all of my worldly possessions and come live with you.

ANNA-LYS said...

lol :-) cute

How will You get ride of Your Master and Your leash? Can You swim Pug? I live across the Atlantic Ocean, a huge sea, in fact the second largest on Earth. I am afraid You will get lost and drown. On the other hand, maybe You already has ;-)

Tyko Brae (exgen. NB) said...

I dag går tankarna till alla hungriga katter som stryker kring på gatorna. Samtidigt är djurparkerna fulla av delfiner och späckhuggare. Slakta hälften av dessa tonfiskar, och ge köttet till katterna. Jag tänker på alla som fryser. Skinnflå katterna! Gör pälsar åt alla stackars frysande människor! Jag tänker på alla samhällsbärande småskollärarinnor och bylingar som betalar alldeles för hög skatt. Sänk deras skatt rejält! Inför i stället biltullar i Lycksele!
Ja, det är sådant som jag funderar på, så här på morgonkulan, Men det är ju inget man kan blogga om. Eller hur?

ANNA-LYS said...

Vänd på kudden och sov på saken, du har just vaknat upp och här nedtecknat en horrible mardröm ... tja, varför ska man inte blogga sina värsta mardrömmar? Kanske för att annat avspeglar sig i dem? ;-))

ANNA-LYS said...


Can You keep pets in this new way of living? Or do they come only in digital form in the future - and what about babies?
Maybe we can't get human babies in the future due to the exposure of Bisphenol A (BPA)!?!

Tyko Brae (exgen. NB) said...

This reminds of a film about the future. Human babies were so scarce, that people adopted cyborgs. Did you see that someone intended to use BPA as a medicine, when he had found out that it resembles oestogen. Man has a lot of phantasy, when it comes to making money.

Wild Celtic said...

Loved the article, thank you for posting it. :) I feel a bit the same way. I sold my car, gave my house to my ex-husband along with most of our furniture, put the rest of my things in storage and am now moving to the UK to finish school, taking with me a few mementos, all my clothes, my Ipod and laptop. I had SO many possessions and was unhappy. Now I'm moving to pursue a degree in a field I'm passionate about in anothery country with only my luggage in tow - and I'm happier than I thought I ever could be.

I just read your Ralph Waldo Emerson quote and you have my dedicated friendship and respect. ;) x

ANNA-LYS said...

I can certainly say that I am a minimalist and nature lover with a very strong interest in environmental issues and technology development, the latter often go hand in hand, but related to the contents in the above article - I am deeply Concern!

The digital life they present may at a first glance seem smart. But, how smart is the young people when they don't reflect upon that digital artefacts requires energy in the form of electricity and that the future may not be able to provide the high level of consumption that we have become accustomed with? As for now, it is OK to reload on friends electricity bills, or the community library (probably paid by our taxes)?!? I think it is close to a life of a parasite :-)

Will they carry around on windmills and solar panels on the top of their heads in the future to come? Or will we develop intelligent hair straws that generate energy from the "air" which can be transferred to the technical artefacts?

Woe to those who lose their hair prematurely, they can't blog in this kind of future :-)

ANNA-LYS said...

BPA (Bisphenol A) can't be used as a medicine, in our society of today no one can escape the exposure of it. IF it won't be stopped the human spices will die out like other dinosaurs before us.

ANNA-LYS said...

Wild Celtic
I think Your kind of minimalism is refreshing. You are a model for life! And I wish You great happiness and success with Your studies!! :-D

and Thank You, dear <3

foam said...

i'm trying to envision my place without junk ......................................................
hmmm ..
i'd have a hard time giving up non-digital art though.
and meatspace friends ..

ANNA-LYS said...

lol I love the trace of Your process of thinking and the result upon them. One can guess that You are more into the dot-world that You are aware of, orrrr?

Inverness Daily Photo said...

Laughing wolf has said exactly what I would say. Each may do as say see fit but every action has a reaction and one person's clutter is another's treasure.

goatman said...

I'll bet that Mr Yurista's friends are thrilled as he shows up to sleep on the couch and shower.
Needs a digital bed!
Nice piece.

ANNA-LYS said...

Inverness D P
Welcome to my blog :-)
Yes, but this way of living has an effect that the article doesn't mention, as I wrote here earlier in my comments.

LOL, and often do the same people vote for integrity and privacy :-D
A paradox!