Shift Happens

© The Author(s) 2015
Cláudio LucenaCollective Rights and Digital ContentSpringerBriefs in Law10.1007/978-3-319-15910-2_2

2. Shift Happens

Cláudio Lucena 

Paraíba State University, Paraiba, Brazil



Cláudio Lucena

Transformation in nature is permanent. The course of mankind on the planet is no exception. If not for any other reason, only for man’s natural inclination and tendency to adapt to the environment, but also to adapt the environment to his needs. Yet, both the pace and the amplitude of changes in the social environment in recent years is unprecedented in our history, technical development playing a leading role in the construction of this new reality with its capability of penetrating in substantially all domains of human activity as an external source of impact.1

It is in fact accurate to say that technical development has acted as protagonist in many, if not in all of the major recent moments in time when social structures were forced to turn route. It has been so, for instance, concerning the use of new sources of energy during successive periods and phases when the Industrial Revolution2 led to a social, political, and economic turning point. But never in history have the transformations hit so hard, so fast and so wide as it has been the case with Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) that have been developed, experienced, and incorporated into the daily lives of this generation, particularly those tools that have appeared and made their way in the two past decades.

These are certainly not the first significant technical developments that impacted in the dissemination of information and knowledge that history records. The advent of the press in China, and later in Europe, for example, had evident revolutionary consequences in this field. Modern technologies, however, feature an unparalleled characteristic of convergence that combined with the stage of technical development when these facts take place, provides the necessary conditions for the effects of these technologies to hit social structures more vertically, more horizontally and especially more rapidly than ever seen before.

Efforts to describe this new paradigm of social organizations have focused on the importance of information (Information Society) or knowledge (Knowledge Society) as their fundamental assets. The terminology resulting from this is unsatisfactory due to the fact that both information and knowledge have been central in all known societies. From another perspective, the way these technologies impacted on a well-known aspect of human of organization—the network—suggests a better description for the phenomenon. The observation that these developments have actually allowed networks to keep their historical strengths of flexibility and adaptability, while finally offering the tools to overcome coordination difficulties through sharing and collaboration possibilities led to the more meaningful depiction of the arrangement as Network Society.3

This social structure is the environment of the present study.

2.1 Digital Technologies Allow New Forms of Social Interaction

In the core of the various kinds of digital technologies and trends that paved the road of the network society—or rather drove alongside it—there has always been the idea of dematerialization.4 Intangibility, the absence of physical or tactile constraints growingly became a prominent feature of a transformation process through which information and communication went in its earlier stages, and finally emerged as one characteristic that forced information and communication to be perceived differently from which they were in preceding analog-structured records.5 This intangibility is of remarkable importance to the further developments specifically concerning the creative content that is the object of this study.

Besides that conceptual role, intangibility is also a condition that renders possible the emergence of another key characteristic, very unique to this new scene, which is the notion of something being able to exist anywhere at the same time, namely, ubiquity. Ubiquitous computing6 is a still evolving concept according to which advances and innovation lead to a stage when we no longer perceive the interactions with technology for certain tasks, since we do not deliberately seek it in a particular moment or before a particular equipment like a desktop, as two or three generations frequently did. Instead, technology “recedes into the background of our lives”7 and we engage in an almost unnoticed use of it through devices that are commonplace and incorporated to our everyday activities. Behind this idea is the reasoning that a computer, as an invisible servant, is in a better condition to help us perform regular activities and that since this external aid enables people to optimize their attention, it is supposed to create calmness. Ubiquitous computing and calm technology have made their way into the social structure, and their utility has even secured them recognition of their importance in legal instruments,8 but designers failed to foresee or did not properly refer to an adverse consequence which is also very common in ubiquity—torts and other infringements are also ubiquitous.9 This is especially true for infringements that particularly interest this study in the further topics, because they are caused in the scope of the intellectual creation activity, itself frequently immaterial and ubiquitous.

Digital technologies also inaugurated a phase in which social expression also benefits from replication, transmission, storage and manipulation facilities, not to mention a priorly unthinkable nonlinearity and machine-equivalency in nature and form,10 all at costs that could not even be imagined in previous stages of human development, an aspect that will also be object of analysis in following topics.

2.2 Enhanced Interaction Opens New Collaboration Possibilities

The nuances digital technologies brought into social interaction favored, as previously mentioned, the overcoming of a crucial difficulty that network structures have invariably faced to function adequately and efficiently, that was coordination. Two actions—sharing and collaborating—receive a whole new meaning in the reality of human interaction, whether we are referring to personal or professional interaction, exactly because digital technologies have put them into a whole new perspective.

Computers with enough power to process more and faster than ever, and that benefit from the new broad interconnection reality that begins to become available start laying the grounds to create “a platform for new kinds of collaborative human action and production.”11 Time and physical distances no longer impeded remote collaboration and from business and commerce to scientific research, from government initiatives to personal relationships, from industrial research to strategic decisions in all sectors, joint efforts and cooperation started to be sensed not only as a natural, but also as a useful and attractive interplay to promote common interests and/or achieve common results.

Shared knowledge and the potential to process, calculate, experience, cross-reference, evaluate, feedback and reevaluate has been consistently evolving and gaining weight in the domains of government and science development. “From philosophy to medicine, accounting to education, and town planning to social insurance, “know-how” and technology make modern governance possible.”12 Social Sciences themselves have undergone transformation as a result of the new interaction perspectives provided by these technologies, methodologies, and data processing possibilities. Quantitative Social Sciences are able to analyze “increasing quantities of diverse, highly informative data”13 and researchers can growingly interoperate on a larger scale, managing interdisciplinary facilities, tasks, and research teams.

This collaboration and sharing model also means dynamics. Digital network technologies are able to induce and coordinate participation on a global scale, fostering what has proven to be a naturally vibrant, lively, and constantly changing environment. When collaboration reaches the very instrument itself that is used in the process, what has happened for example with Wiki, the authorship tool from which Wikipedia is built and that encompasses the “quintessential commons peer-based production project”,14 it reveals its virtually unlimited potential. Moreover, it is a social model that can also encourage values of democracy, since the possibility to use resources freely implies “improved participation in the production of information and information-dependent components of human development.”15

Finally, it is a paradigm that relies, to an extensive degree, on values of free initiative. Collaboration in this environment is essentially voluntary and encouraged by the perception that no strong or mandatory commitment is demanded from the individual, what “increases the range and diversity of cooperative relations people can enter, and therefore of collaborative projects they can conceive of as open to them.”16

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