Another dispatch from the "experience economy" This item from BoingBoing.net links to a Japanese shopping site where you never get any of the objects you shop for, instead you pay for the experience of making exciting shopping choices via a video link.
This seems a harbinger. Shopping itself has become the product; the act of acquisition is replacing the object itself as retailing's crucial component. This is a conceptual shift that is in some ways long overdue -- it mirrors the shift made by advertising in the 1920s from descriptions of the products themselves to evocations of the person you'd be with such a product in your life. It figures that the natural next step from lifestyle advertising would be to dispense with the products and market the lifestyle directly, with the products reduced to props in the narcissistic drama provided for you. This also solves an associated problem, the fact that many people seem to believe that their living spaces are too cluttered and too full of stuff. This has become more pronounced as items have become in general less useful and purposeful and more mere signaling devices and therapeutic excitement fixes. We love the flash of pleasure that comes from buying something, but we've long since run out of stuff that we really need or places to store it. So this approach allows us the shopping thrill with none of the storage headache.