Studies like this may seem slightly… well, obvious to you (informed reader) and me (lonely blogger), but the fact is that no matter how clear things like “yeah the kids these days love Facebook” seem to us, they do need to be studied and quantified in experimental fashion, or else they’re just intuitions.
In this case, the common knowledge (to us) that teenagers value their Facebook pictures and Xbox achievement lists the way my generation valued its 3×5 prints and annotated Nintendo Powers is being put to the test.
As the CMU study reveals (though with a sample size of 21, it’s not exactly universal), yes indeed, young’uns do place a high value on their virtual items. Because so much of this new generation’s social life is online, physical goods are indeed at a disadvantage, since they can’t be tagged, commented on, and shared.
An interesting question raised by the researchers: if the value of, say, a tagged and commented photo is in the metadata, the contributions from friends and so on, is the permission of the “collaborators” necessary for deletion or modification? After all, they had a hand in making it as valuable as it is. And then of course there’s the question of who owns the rights to the photo in the first place: who took it? Who uploaded it? On whose account? With whose connection? Using what service? And so on. But that’s a study for another day.