Great post from Grant McCracken, on the genius of Netflix. Highlights have been added, because these are exactly the issues that always puzzle me in regards to nearly unlimited access of digital content, value and meaning creation.
mostly the power of Netflix comes from it's creation of "access constrained by interval" and the recreation of a kind of scarcity (a "managed scarcity"). With Netflix, I have access to just about all the movies in the world. But, given my subscription model, they come to me only 2 at a time.
Two movies are not a lot. In a world of nearly limitless access, this should be irksome. But it ain't, of course, because these are almost always exactly the movies that interest me. Two movies has a deeper virtue. "Two movies" is an elimination of all the movies that might otherwise bid for my attention, damaging my sense of value and, God knows, even my identity formation. (And there's been quite enough of that, already.)
The fulfillment model is especially clever. I can speed up the interval at which I receive new movies. I do so merely by returning the old ones. This is an interval I do not choose or need to dwell upon. It is set in train naturally when I finish watching my present movies. In effect, I am setting my own wave. I am managing access. I am mediating plenty in a post-scarcity world. I am, to this extent, restoring a sense of value. (The Tarantino picture I own outright on DVD may be diminished by its ubiguity. The same picture come to me from Netflix is precious because it's engagement, as we used to say, is limited.)