Owning in the age of sharing

Francisco Silva, Porto

Why do we still own so many things nowadays?

By the small round coffee table there are several places to sit: a big chair with three extra pillows that don´t exactly match its fabric pattern; a sofa that faces a fireplace decorated with many family pictures and small objects bought during past trips around the world; a rocking chair that isn’t really used; and small benches that were already a part of the decoration in previous houses. Over the coffee table there is a white and blue porcelain centerpiece and some monthly magazines. Everything faces wooden shelves covering the entire walls. On them, there is the flat screen, books that were gifts and never read, more porcelain from different countries, boxes that store things that are rarely used and other objects that were slowly and meticulously collected throughout a lifetime.

There are many objects that make up one reality. Many things that define that space – that define its owners, the people who live there.
We keep collecting them because we want our reality to change – the same way we do. We want to continuously manifest our preferences. These objects represent our requirements, our memories – ourselves – and, as we transform, we change them, we transform and we replace them with new ones.

What can we share?

In the middle of a huge three-lane roundabout there is a 50-meter tall column. On top lies still a golden statue of a winged man. The cars, bikes, bicycles and buses – all in various colors – go around, everyday. On four sides of this public space there are bus stops with ever-changing advertisements of movies, products and services. The buildings alter themselves every hour of the day. On the morning, the café owners put the tables and chairs outside, on the afternoon they extend the shades over their terraces and in the evening they put away everything and leave just the empty space. The small shops next to the dark sidewalk change as well. Sometimes they sell small souvenirs; sometimes they get replaced by art galleries, some other times by clothes shops.

These are our objects too – but in a different way. Although they are a daily reference in our lives, we merely attribute to them meanings, so that the same object – like a statue or a bus stop – may have different connotations and perceived and used differently between diverse people.
We share these objects, like we share the interior of the metro; everything inside an apartment that we rent for a couple of days; the seats of a car that transports us to the train station – because they do not “belong“ to anyone in particular.
They are for anyone and everyone is able to “own” them in the way they see fit.

The persistence of the things we own.
The bed is a dark deep blue. On each side there are two small bedside tables, both with beige paper lamps. One has a white metallic clock and a picture and the other has some religious figures. On the side there is a chair that faces an empty yellow patterned wall. It is there for decorative reasons but it is mainly used to pile up all the clothes that were used during the day. Two of its legs step over a light blue carpet with a square motif. In a wooden dresser there are more photographs, souvenirs and objects of personal value.

The realities we built for ourselves have meaning for ourselves and are our foundation in the world. They represent our space – they are our manifestation.
And, more importantly, is that we control these objects and these realities. One day they can be there in a certain layout, the next it can change or even disappear. The objects we own can easily adapt to our tastes, our personalities and moods.
They are more than physical references. They are more than collections – more than objects.
The things we own and how we organize them manifest who we are in a particular moment.
And therefore, the things we own cannot have the same meaning to someone else.
Those things are impossible to share.

(There are no images – so that the reader is free to imagine any reality from the descriptions given)