How to think about distant future or how we wrote the scenarios
Tomasz Kasprzak, Martyna Woropińska

In our research project we used some elements of the “foresight” methodology because of its social, creative, process-oriented and multidimensional nature

The goal placed in front of the research team was to show potential legislative solutions and business models related to the functioning of copyright in the broader context of culture, society, education, public policy, and economy 25 years from now. The effect of this work is meant to initiate discussions on the future of the creation, use and sharing of cultural works. This task - as well as any other attempt to influence the scope and level of public debate - is an ambitious challenge. In addition, reflecting on the future so distant is burdened with high risk, because the current trends can change direction; one must also allow for events that would completely change the situation. That is why we decided to use a research method called “foresight”.

Foresight methodology allows us to get closer to the situation that will take place 20-30 years from now by describing it in several scenarios showing possible developments1. The same method combines analysis and research (including analysis of available research on interesting topics, i.e. desk-research, as well as quantitative research, and statistical analysis) with an approach based on methods to stimulate creative thinking (creative workshops).

Foresight is a participatory method - its purpose is to formulate possible visions of the future on the basis of the debate reconciling different points of view. It often uses a scenario approach - basing on trends and uncertainties descriptions of potential future are formulated.

This methodology has been developed for 80 years now and one of its precursors is considered to be an American sociologist William F. Ogburn2, a representative of technological determinism and the author of the concept of “cultural lag” (determining primacy of technology). It flourished in the second half of the twentieth century, when companies such as RAND and Shell began to use it in a strategic attempt to prepare for the future. The foresight method is used primarily in strategic planning related to the development of science and the institutions that use it, and also to create scenarios for the future well-defined sectors of the economy, businesses or even countries.

Foresight may be also applied to social themes through techniques that maintain social, creative, process-oriented and multi-dimensional approach both to the survey and the analysis of its results.

The social nature of foresight involves engaging in various stages of both experts closely related to its topic, as well as those representing some more remote areas. Persons invited to the project should have conditions for discussion, reconciliation of positions and verification of their own views to ensure that knowledge arising during the project is social in nature.

During the workshop various techniques are used to increase creativity, encourage thinking outside the box and design new solutions.

The process approach based on categories of the future is crucial for foresight projects because of the need to check theses and ideas several times. The process is also the time needed for analysis and creating scenarios. Multidimensionality in foresight is expressed through the willingness to take multiple perspectives and contexts into account.

At the organizational level of foresight project the above features manifest themselves in the selection of techniques and methods of work (space, workshops methods, networking), willingness to experiment and verify, and openness to risk-taking.

For the purpose of this study a process consisting of three stages was designed:

as well as:

The key role in the whole process was played by experts’ workshops, the aim being to develop four scenarios for the future. At the same time the workshops implemented the participatory demand - participants in the meetings were representatives of authors, intermediaries and users of cultural goods, i.e. all parties involved in the creation and exploitation of copyright. The meetings had a workshops character, using creative techniques and creativity training.

The purpose of the first workshops was to define the object of the project - to answer the question what today’s copyright is (context, scope, methods of use, actors) - and to define trends that may affect it in the future (e.g. based on the results of desk-research). Among these trends were social, economic, technological and cultural changes.

The discussion about trends was the starting point for the selection of “uncertainty factors” (i.e. phenomena whose direction and strength of development we are not able to predict) crucial for our further development of future scenarios. Pivots created by intersecting “uncertainty factors” define fields for building various scenarios. We have assumed that for the purposes of this project two key uncertainty factors for the future of the creation, use and sharing of culture will be selected, which will determine four scenarios.

Between workshops, the experts, using the survey on-line, formed a hierarchy of trends in terms of their validity and likelihood (from a list of previously proposed about 60 items, using the 10-point scale they pointed to the ones that would have in their opinion the greatest impact on the future of creating, sharing and the use of cultural property in the context of European copyright law in 25 years). As a result 17 trends were selected providing a benchmark for the scenario building – they are described in the chapter “What awaits us?” of this report.

The second workshops started with the process of formulating and developing future scenarios in the perspective of 2040. The starting point was to select two key “uncertainties” (pivots), for which the following were adopted:

From the intersection of these two, four possible scenarios came into being.

Further work of experts consisted of filling scenarios with content and continuous checking of assumptions taken for selected trends, interest groups (authors, agents, representatives of the system of law and users). By creating scenarios they attempted to answer the questions associated with each of them, including the following:

The third and last workshops were devoted to clarifying and deepening each scenario and taking a look at the situation of different actors in each of them. It is worth noticing that all workshops were held in an extremely dynamic manner with a strong involvement of people taking part in them.

Basing on a detailed analysis of these four scenarios Miłada Jędrysik, a journalist who participated in all meetings of experts, prepared a narrative description of the possible “worlds”, constituting the main part of this report.

The scenarios developed may be a starting point for broadening the scope of public debate, and the next step to reconcile approaches to copyright by a wider than the current group of authors, intermediaries and users of cultural works. The authors of the project “Scenarios for the future of libraries” stress that “Foresight is primarily a way to become familiar with the thinking of the future and to adopt pro-active approach to the changes.”3. Moreover, through the inclusion of different perspectives and actors, it creates the possibility of verbalizing positions of individuals and groups excluded from the dominant discourse. In the text “Prospektywa, czyli zarządzanie przyszłością” [Prospective, or management of the future] Edwin Bendyk4 gives the affirmative answer to the question whether the method of foresight can help in coping with real challenges. Such a real challenge for people interested in shaping social relations, education, creative industries, culture and technology in Europe in the perspective of 25 years is, in our opinion, the shape of copyright.

We asked three experts about their views on the future of standards and practices related to copyright.

Justyna Hofmokl, internet researcher and campaigner for free culture:

“We are not able to inhibit the appetite of users for movies, music, texts or images, which has been awakened by the development of the Internet. The availability of any of the goods at your doorstep means that we expect novelties at good resolution and in any language immediately. I believe that the policies of cultural content providers will be aimed more towards satisfying the desires of consumers than penalizing activities aimed at obtaining access to content. Commercial offer based on the subscription system will probably grow and the authors will agree to it, even against their own interest. It would be naive to believe that the major players in the media market will give way to networks of distributed groups of enthusiasts who share among themselves their selected sources. In this sense, the fundamental thesis of the revolution and transfer of all power over the flow of cultural goods to internet users was far too optimistic. I personally enjoy the fact that the internet provides easy access to niches and those seeking diversity certainly can get to them.

The copyright is not adapted to the reality in which every minute gigabytes of new content appear, and users expect to be able not only to be aware of them, but also to forward or redo them. Therefore, in its present form it is a burden rather than improving the circulation of culture. But we cannot expect a rapid onset of revolution in the legislation. I hope for a change, which will be caused by slow transformation not so much in the media market, but in the scientific and educational activities. It is in these areas that free licenses allowing sharing and transformation of educational content are adapted the fastest. The next generation brought up on such shared content will expect similar freedom in the field of culture. They may carry out a reform of copyright law to measure the new century.”

Marcin Beme, founder of audiobooks service

“The most important in the course of cultural content on the Web is to caress the consumers: to offer them a complete, stable and easy-to-use service. Mobile technologies in the pocket of every potential user is a great opportunity to spread access to cultural content. But you have to remember that competition - in the sense of other content and entertainment - is only “one app away”. The period during which a person focuses on one object before deciding to move elsewhere (the so-called attention span) is very short, and cultural content have different characteristics than celebrity gossip or other entertainment websites. If we do not provide users with absolutely unique experience with our service, it is just as easily as we have gained them, we may lose them.

“Pirate” in my opinion is a person who did not get a satisfactory offer from authorized sources. Most people do not know that they use the services that break the law, especially that they often pay for their use. If you wonder whether it is easier to find and punish the illegal sharing of movies or music or make clients of such services respect the copyright, the second solution seems easier. However, it seems even easier - from the point of view of the entrepreneur selling audio books - first to reach those who have not yet consumed culture on the Web, but are participants in the mobile community - using smartphones and tablets - and they have the financial capacity to pay for a well-prepared service.”

Bartek Chaciński, journalist and editor of the culture column in “Polityka” magazine:

“Streaming services giving access to as many resources on the Web for the price of one subscription are definitely the future. After years of trial and error, finally, it turned out which model works. Examples from Scandinavia, which has become a training ground for such solutions, show that they minimize illegal trade files and replace it. Streaming services will serve to familiarize viewers with commercial products of culture - the real enthusiasts will go on buying the LP or participating in concerts of their favorite artists.

Perhaps the profit from these new distribution models will not be what the authors would have expected, but at least their work would be sold, and not taken for free. Anyway, let us give this market a chance to develop, the real benefits are yet to come.

At the same time you can see that the movement under the aegis of Creative Commons, of which I am a strong supporter, seems to be slowing down. Maybe with the changes streaming services will bring, the status quo when it comes to copyright law will strengthen, because if it turns out that you can make money on the old terms, why change them.”

1: See Kuciński J., Podręcznik metodyki foresight dla ekspertów projektu Foresight regionalny dla szkół wyższych Warszawy i Mazowsza “Akademickie Mazowsze 2030”, Warsaw 2010

2: See: Bell W., Foundations of Futures Studies, Volume 1: Human Science for a New Era, New Jersey 2003

3: Tarkowski A., Bendyk E., Scenariusze przyszłości bibliotek, Warsaw 2011

4: Bendyk E., Prospektywa, czyli zarządzanie przyszłością, [in:] Scenariusze rozwoju lokalnych polityk kultury, Warsaw 2012

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