When I was a teenager, I was obsessed by computers. And moderately obsessed by computer games and RolePlayingGames. And I used to do a strange thing. Suppose I went somewhere, or watched a film, and saw a particularly beautiful or striking piece of landscape or building. I'd immedietely want to have created it as part of a video-game. Or to incorporate it into a game.
In an age of text-adventures influenced by ColossalCave, I'd dilligently draft a map on graph-paper and sometimes get as far as turning on my TRS-80 and starting a new program with an array of descriptions of various locations.
I was touched by an environment. And wanted to do something with it, in a way that I related to. And for a couple of years, that meant wanting it to be part of a game I created. (For a short while later, I was satisfied with making DungeonsAndDragons maps too.)
Later on, I got more "serious". Most art-forms I saw I wanted to try. If I read a good novel, I wanted to write a novel. When I started listening to music, I wanted to make music. If I saw a play, I was enthused by the idea of writing drama. If I saw a piece of software (like when I first saw the Mac interface) I wanted to write software with a WIMP interface.
In other words, I think I had something of what it is to be a hacker. My way of wanting to relate to things that impressed me was wanting to create them. Even though, absurdly, they were created already.
I suppose painters feel something very similar. When they see something that strikes them, they must paint it. And incorporate it into their world.
This is quite mysterious and interesting. You are struck by something and you want some connection with it. Some, X. And depending on who you are, on how you relate to things, and how you relate to yourself, the actual relation X that you want can be different. Do you feel inspired to write poetry? To paint? To build 3D models?
And, of course, I guess for an awful lot of people, this indeterminate, unnamable "wanting" gets bound to owning. For the super-rich (or our relatively super-rich ancestors) seeing a piece of beautiful landscape or building could turn into a desire to "have" : to conquer or to buy. For the not-so-super-rich majority today, it's more likely to turn into wanting to own some sort of copy : a house in the style of. A fountain in the garden that's little bit like that one in Rome. Luis 14th chairs. Or a painting of the Swiss Alps.
And I suppose this makes the channeling of this wanting into an engine of consumerism. When you grow up, if you interpret your unnamed wanting as wanting ownership, then you'll grow up a good consumer. It's how we program the ConsumTariat.
But the wanting can take other forms. Wanting to turn something into a video-game environment is presumably not so common. But the HackersAndPainters cultures are strong today (and maybe gaining in strength.) In GiftCultures the wanting may be wanting to give rather than retain. For others, the wanting may be read as a religious impulse : a yearning for God. It might even get expressed in some frustrated cultures as an urge to vandalism and destruction. I want something from this, but all I can do is demonstrate my connection to it, and power-over it by smashing it up. (Compare FameCrime)
Is this Hiraeth?
I suspect none of these ways is natural in that the direction can be channeled by our culture and upbringing. But at the same time, it seems there is some fundamental wanting which can be adapted in these different direction.
I wonder how this desire to own stuff gets organized.
For example, I'm not immune to consumerism. Whenever I have spare money, much of it inevitably gets spent collecting music and books. I like browsing for these things in shops. I feel pleasure buying them. And I spend plenty of time carefully organizing them (and gloating over them) on my shelves. And I do read / listen to them.
On the other hand, I like going to the cinema too, but I have about as much interest or desire to buy and own DVDs or videos (even of good films that I like) as I have collecting stamps or the numbers off the front of locomotive engines. Music shops seem increasingly taken over by racks of DVDs of concert footage and are therefore decreasingly exciting for me.
Now clearly music CDs and film DVDs are pretty similar really. So how you get encultured into an obsessive for one but not the other is quite an interesting question.
Interesting related BrainScience : http://blogs.zdnet.com/emergingtech/?p=1131
See also :