What awaits us?
Miłada Jędrysik

We live in a time of change, which is often compared to the revolution caused by the spread of printing. Then, at the time of Gutenberg, by extending the written word the information got outside a tiny elite circle of readers: the nobles and clergy, reaching to the middle class, and then to the masses. The democratic world in which we live today is a consequence of this particular revolution.

We are already aware of a number of consequences of civilizational transition from an analogue to a digital world, but a lot of them we probably cannot even imagine. A lot of them awakens in us fear, which is a healthy evolutionary response that allows our species to avoid the unknown dangers, but it is worth bearing in mind that some of these fears appear unreasonable in time (in the mid-nineteenth century passengers fainted during a train ride, so crazy and dangerous to man seemed the speed of a steam locomotive). Twenty years after the spread of the Internet we are able to see the trends that seem to be shaping further development of the digital world. During the workshop we chose 17 trends that we considered the most important for the future of social circulation of information, culture, creativity and knowledge, i.e. goods covered by intellectual monopolies.


Globalization is a process the development of digitization has sped up. Today we are able to transfer large amounts of data in a very short time. A feature film, all episodes of the show, an entire discography – to download them through a broadband network is a matter of a few minutes. Internet does not know - at least for now - any borders. “Gangnam Style”, a hit by the Korean singer Psy, is approaching two billion views on YouTube. Streaming music services cover larger and larger areas of the world. Google and Facebook are global powers.

These capabilities are also in benefit to companies that provide files in violation of copyright laws.

Execution of violations of the law in the internet raises issues arising from the technology. Place of company headquarters, place in which there are servers with nonauthorizated files, place in which the violation was done by sharing the file, and the country in which it was downloaded - those may be different states (jurisdictions) with different copyright rules.

An effort is made to regulate global trade, including the exchange of files and services on the Web, by trade agreements - some of them, like ACTA or TTIP, raise concern that, under the banner of fighting “piracy”, users will be deprived of the right to use resources in accordance with the principles of fair use or they will become subjects to control clearly violating civil rights.

It is also discussed whether issues regarding intellectual monopolies when it comes to cultural works should be treated differently than in the case of traditional industries.

The digital globalization is also an opportunity to work as distributed teams, as in the case of Wikipedia - an encyclopaedia created by volunteers from around the world. This puts, among other things, new light on the concept of authorship of the work - who is the author of an entry in Wikipedia or a crowdsourcing translation?

We might also ask, more generally, whether the creative process is an individual flash of genius that creates ex nihilo, or the collective effort of the community based on the achievements of its predecessors? The answer to this question lies between the folklore-inspired poems of the Romantics and the Internet remix today.

Exponential growth in the availability of content and ease of dissemination

The development of broadband Internet and more “capable” miniaturising memory gives us the ability to copy and transfer more and more data. Every 24 months the number of transistors in microprocessors doubles.

The data are not measured in megabytes, gigabytes and terabytes anymore – there being peta-, iexa-, zetta- and yottabytes.

More and more of what has been written using zeroes and ones is within our immediate reach. An e-book is purchased with one click, and after a few seconds you can read it on your reader. Viral content in social media may reach hundreds of thousands of users in a few hours – a “selfie” of Ellen DeGeneres with the winners of the Oscars in 2014 beat the record for most retweets: two million.

Development of informal circulation of content as a condition for the development of decentralized infrastructure

On the Polish Internet there circulates a photo from 1980s showing young people at a concert - all with their hands up, all holding cassette recorders, all recording. The informal circulation is nothing new; it appears everywhere where someone or something restricts access to content. In communist countries it took a form of samizdat, when it came to content limited by political censorship. Those who had access to the latest records from the West copied them on cassettes and sold or distributed to their friends.

A decentralized infrastructure, such as P2P (peer to peer), is more difficult to control. It is also a convenient way to exchange files directly between users, bypassing distributors, regardless of whether they provide movies and music with the consent of the owners or without this consent.

In the digital world the informal circulation has a greater extent, but the motivations are the same as in the days of analogue world - on the one hand there is the desire to escape the censorship or surveillance, which - as we know from the information furnished by Edward Snowden or activities of the Chinese censors - can achieve the size incomparable with anything before.

On the other hand – it is a response to access barriers. The “premium” cultural offer is beyond the reach of most internet users, both for financial and technical reasons - the media companies reluctantly enter smaller markets, believing that it does not pay them.

Still others believe that by sharing resources of knowledge and culture they contribute to the social justice, bridging the barriers of access for the disadvantaged.

Development of the free software movement

Similarly to P2P networks, free software, i.e. the code freely available that may be controlled and modified by its users, is a response to the threat of surveillance and information environment control. This is a solution for those who want to be sure that their software does not spy on them and does not limit the possibility by artificial barriers produced by the equipment manufacturers or proprietary software.

Free software is also selected by those who like the pro-social and socially aware aspect of its creation - everyone can benefit from someone else’s work without the fear of copyright infringement; anyone can contribute to the community building.

“We want to be premium”

“We want to be premium” that is to say: we want to watch the new season of our favourite series right now, immediately, together with users from the United States.

In the globalized world with copying files and informal circulation of content on the Internet it is easy to realize one’s cultural aspirations, even if you do not happen to be a premium consumer – either due to financial reasons or lack of services in a given country. When Netflix, an American company that provides streaming movies and TV series, released the second season of “House of Cards”, it turned out that Poland came second (after the United States) as regards the number of episodes downloaded from torrents, far ahead of other countries in which Netflix already operates.

Streaming services are developing rapidly, but not fast enough to avoid consumers in poorer and smaller countries to feel “worse” because these services have not arrived there yet. Some want to “legalize” their need to be a premium consumer as soon as possible, because they can afford that, and they believe it is only fair. Others, when having to choose between a paid service and the “free” one, will always choose the latter, because the subscription seems too expensive or because they do not want to contribute to millions earned by producers and distributors.

Dominance of two business models of network intermediaries

Today the monetization of circulation of culture in the Internet is carried out in one of two business models. In the first model, the intermediary (e.g. Amazon, iTunes, Spotify) earns on the sale of access to content, the commodity being, therefore, information (music, video, e-book) sought by the user. As a result, the intermediary aims at strict control over the flow of content, shutting it in their own system by preventing its copying to the hard drive, or reproducing with devices that are not their product. In return for a fee, you receive access on terms favorable to the intermediary. Fair use is therefore limited by the technology ( technological protection measures, TPM). In the second model data about users is monetized. In such a way, platforms such as Google and Facebook operate. The commodity here is not the content, but rather the information about users, their behaviour on the Web, preferences, friends. The platforms base on the works created or distributed by the users themselves. In the interest of these companies is not, therefore, a really broad fair use, which would legalize alternative social media, based on peer-2-peer networks.

These two models originally competed with each other, because holders of the rights to content did not want their works to leak out of their system and appear on the platform, while owners of platforms were interested in as heavy traffic on their sites as possible, the issue of copyright being not a priority for them. With time, Internet companies began to use both models at the same time, because both produce the greatest profit today, monetizing the network effect.

Easy access to content

Clients expect comfort. And they are ready to pay for it with money, security or freedom. Therefore, comfort is the best (perhaps the only) tool, which can break the informal circulation of content. With the avalanche of access, you can “buy” consumers offering them - at a reasonable price - high quality and ease of use. No more broken connections, depixelised images, incomplete files that break off when we were about to find out who is the killer. End of e-books and audiobooks, in which chapters get torn.

The customer of the twenty-first century will buy it under one condition: that everything will take no more than three clicks. If you have to copy anything, fill in never-ending forms, or fight with incompatible formats, you choose another intermediary.

Growing importance of the law in protecting the professional market

International treaties, such as ACTA, new legal regulations in different countries, tools allowing us to keep track of depleting profits of the distributors due to consumer behaviour: the world’s legal systems are slowly adapting to the digital world. Fair use, which is borrowing a book, a movie on a physical medium, to friends or acquaintances at a time when you had to have personal contact between borrowers, was limited to a range of one or a few dozen of people. In the digital era it requires a new definition, because where is the limit? In the digital age, however, private use allowed by law requires a new interpretation of “the circle of friends”. Five thousand friends, because so many you can have on Facebook? In fact friends on FB are often closer to us than our colleagues from work, even though we might have never seen the first eye-to-eye and the latter we see every day.

The European Commission is just about to change the European Directive of 2001 harmonizing the copyright law in Europe, which was created under strong pressure from media companies counting on the longest binding force of exclusive rights and limiting exceptions. On the other hand, the United States from which the bulk of the so-called Big Content (i.e. corporations gaining from copyright ownership, for example Walt Disney Company), is trying to impose further trade treaties, transferring its legislation (and the balance of power) for the rest of the globe. The adaptation process to the realities of the Web is in progress, the nearest future will show which way it will go.

Polarization of interests between consumers and businesses and governments

The interest of the recipient has already been defined – to have access to everything as comfortable as possible, free of charge or at a reasonable price. The business interest is, of course, to have the greatest profit, even at the cost of limiting access. European authorities in accordance with the liberal worldview feel primarily responsible for shaping an environment conducive to business, treating contemporary culture as further areas for commodification.

The copyright-holders - both auttors and intermediaries - are afraid of new business models, such as streaming services, which compensate for the low price of the service with their massive character. Some intermediaries also trying to concentrate in their hands full copyright, treating authors who provide content quite instrumentally. Therefore, some authors believe that it is more profitable to lobby for prolonging the validity of these laws, narrowing fair use and providing punishment. As a result they find it more profitable to lobby for prolonging the validity of these laws, narrowing fair use and providing punishment. In some countries, politicians are inclined to these expectations and exacerbate the prosecution of copyright violations, not sparing the public funds, as in the case of the French government agency HADOPI.

Some authors try to overcome these conflicts, bypassing intermediaries, and addressing the audience directly, whether it means offering all or part of their production for free, or collecting voluntary network fee before or after the creation of the work (crowdfunding). Also some intermediaries tolerate the grey area, seeing it as a potential for future customer hunting and field research on their preferences.

Today one can see that in fact the profits and markets of the creative industry, although declining in certain narrow sectors (e.g. profits from sales of Cds) grow (games, video) or remain at a high level (music, books). And this despite the alleged global crisis.

Convergence of the media

Gone are the days when a newspaper offered you something to read, the radio – just something to hear, and a television just show – something to watch. They were three different incompatible technologies. On the Internet everything is a stream of bits, so it is possible to combine different forms of communication within a single site or material. “The New York Times” has set new journalistic routes with its material of 2013 about an avalanche in Tunnel Creek, containing the text next to video materials, slideshows, interactive maps and video covers illustrating the beginning of each chapter, in which, for example, in the background the snow was falling.

Today it seems to be something quite obvious to us that the text on the Web is illustrated not only by a photo but also an embedded video. In the newspaper applications for tablets and smartphones, more and more moves, plays or changes.

It also works the other way - the layout of paper media increasingly resembles the Internet, and the same thing happens with television stations: whizzing around the main image are strips of news and comments.

Convergence also has social consequences - the “old” media adapting to the Internet also take over the “social order” and weaken the former dividing line on the active senders and passive recipients, e.g. allowing commenting on their texts or mixing professional journalistic texts with texts of users.

Changing patterns of cultural consumption

Until recently we have been consuming culture either frequently moving or accepting passively what was delivered to our house. We went to the cinema, theatre, concerts and meetings with authors - this has not changed, and even becomes more important in the situation when you have any content at your fingertips. In this system personal contact with the artist becomes an even more special experience. But we are no longer condemned to zapping with our remote control on a few dozen channels in the hope of finding something interesting, or to borrowing videos, CDs and books from our friends.

Everything is on the Internet, what is more, it is not worth possessing. The focus moves from having the work on a physical medium to being able to have quick access to it online. This can lead - and there are already indications of this happening – to the secondary growth of interest in physical media, such as vinyl records.

On the screen of a smartphone or tablet movies, books, music, images are available 24/7, in places and times so far unheard of - you can listen to music while riding a bike or running on a treadmill, read in the queue, watch in a hospital bed.

Formerly to share with someone intangible cultural products demanded quite a complicated physical operation – recording a record or film or transferring them on a tape or disc. If you desired a book, you had to take the trouble to visit a friend, take it under your arm, and carry it home, not to mention an inevitable social chat on the occasion. Now to share a photo or video clip, if not with the whole of humanity, at least with a wide circle of friends, you only need one click on the social networking site, one little button that says “SHARE”.

This revolutionary change, which redefines the concept of ownership and moves the centre of gravity of ownership from material goods to the community of experience, may be important for the future of economic systems and social relations.

Growing importance of competencies in the management of information

The plethora of content means that it is necessary to acquire new competencies on the part of both users and content providers.

We already know that the search in the search engines is loaded with curvature brought by algorithms, a filter bubble, making the users see different search results depending on their history of visiting the Web. Anyone who does not get lost on the network as if he were in the enchanted forest, is able to competently search for information on the Internet, who can manage their profile on the social networking site so that content reaches where planned to, who is aware of what traces personal information “leaves” in the network and how to preserve privacy, will have an advantage over others, as in the past the ones who could read to the illiterate.

The same applies to those who provide content. Those who deliver it in such a way as to satisfy the user in terms of transparency and functionality of the service, and with the increasing public awareness of the problem, perhaps soon also guaranteeing privacy, will win.

Growing importance of content filtering skills

Avalanche access to content raises the need for new forms of guidance. An iconic figure in the world of new journalism is, for instance, Andy Carvin of U.S. public radio NPR (now First Look Media), who introduces himself as a “real-time news DJ & occasional journalist”, DJ information on the Internet. Thanks to his commitment on Twitter (he has 102,000 followers) events such as the Egyptian spring of 2011 or attack on the Boston Marathon in 2013 began to take shape and meaning on the Internet, that without his mediation probably would not be interested by the subject or would rely only on the information noise in which they were not able to distinguish real messages from distortions.

Carvin checked the reliability of sources, denounced fabricated revelations, drew people attention to important details. He served the same role as a journalist with experience in the traditional media, except for the fact that he based on other material input – twitts by others.

Just like in the library we always needed a meaningful and transparent catalogue so on the Web we need guides who would order the world for us, because they know it better and have the time we are lacking. It could be one person who would create playlists or the whole site designed to become an aid for those seeking the light among yottabytes of information.

Another thing that has changed is the fact that in addition to the voice of anointed experts we take into account the preferences of our friends (who liked something on the Web or shared it with us). Services providing content put on recommendation systems based precisely on the activity of one’s friends (“Your friend, Antek, liked Beethoven”) tell us what might be of interest for us. This is another element of the democratization of cultural consumption.

But our tastes today are also steered by algorithms that suggest the user what he might like based on his previous behaviour on the Web. Such dehumanization of the process may seem dangerous for the community nature of culture and autonomy of users.

Experience economy

For the last dozen years or so, economists have been pointing out that the real commodity on the market is the experience offered to the customers. The experience economy theory becomes particularly important when there are a lot of goods that are easily accessible, as it is in the case of the Internet. A unique experience can be – along with convenience - a factor which induces consumers to pay for the service, even though it does not involve a great effort to obtain it for free. Therefore, for example, the artists collecting funds for the creation of their works on crowdfunding sites offer the donors their autographs, T-shirts with the logo of the project or even dinner.

Such an experience is an added value, determined directly by the creator or intermediary - to a lesser extent, therefore, it relates to the circulation of content without respecting copyrights. It may therefore help to alleviate tensions between users and intermediaries or authors, if the barrier of access to these unique experiences is not too high (e.g. free gadgets and an acceptable price). In another case it will only exacerbate these tensions.

Two cultural markets – professional and amateur

Two cultural markets - professional and amateur - have existed probably since the first cave paintings authors began to distinguish themselves from other inhabitants of the caves as holders of special talent. At the end of the analogue world they were already encapsulated with long established taboos and institutional props. On the road of long emancipation from the guild craftsman the artist has become almost superhuman, thanks to the bestowal of special talents. But artists had to take artistic education, to adopt patterns of high culture, and then register their business in an appropriate association - only then could they become professional creators. Documenting their professionalism - especially in the countries of real socialism - gave them more rights than amateurs - to perform on stage, to royalties.

Internet with its weakening hierarchies - not only for the artists - disturbed this order of things. Suddenly it turned out that an amateur is not only a homely artist exhibiting matches paintings in the local community centre, but also one of dozens of thousands of internet users, no worse, and often better at what they do, than dozens of professional artists.

A question now arises whether a gifted photographer, who on his blog earns on contextual advertising, is an artist or an amateur? The criterion of the creation for free is difficult to be fitted into the online reality. Anyway, Franz Kafka also did not write for money. If you can speak in this case of any clear trend, it may rather be such that “amateurs around the world joined together” - their work is simply more visible and more accessible.

An easier access to customers on the part of creators who have not passed regulating artistic education and have not been anointed by the guards of the canon, is reflected in the discourse they use: there is more strands of contesting dominant narratives.

Increase of the prestige of professional artists on the cultural market and prices of their original works. Exclusivity of the physical contact with the artist

Easy to copy works in the digital age make it necessary to define the notion of authenticity. When the Polish surrealist painter Zdzisław Beksiński, an enthusiast of new technologies, began to copy his drawings on the photocopier, the recipients had serious doubts whether they were actually dealing with a work of art. The master would ask a rhetorical question, why nobody doubts in woodcuts or linocuts, but apparently even the theoretical possibility of copying the work indefinitely raises questions as to its uniqueness.

The same questions arose when the distinguished living British painter David Hockney drew beautiful still lives (incidentally, using free software) at his first iPad, where the value added was a flash of the glass screen of the device.

Some accept readily these new techniques of creativity, others will still prefer the possibility of physical contact with the material and will be prepared to pay a lot for it.

The search for originality and uniqueness can be seen even in the case of works that are mass-reproduced by their very nature: comics, cartoons and games - original boards rising in price.

Also important today is the possibility of physical contact with the creator. If Spotify earns 0,006 to 0,084 dollars for one playing of a song, only a really popular artist may consider his revenue from this site a significant item in the family budget. Much more could be earned by playing concerts. A lot of experts say that in the near future a direct meeting with the artist can be one of the most important sources of his income. And this applies not only to performing artists; writers earn even more on meetings and other public appearances than on selling their books.

New, for example, bodily forms of consumption and exploitation of cultural goods resulting from the development of technology

In April 2012 at a concert by rapper Snoop Dogg there appeared in a hologram another rapper Tupac Shakur killed 16 years before. According to the viewers’ he “looked almost like a living person, and it was hard to believe that the real Tupac is not on stage”. The hologram of Tupac is just one example of augmented reality, which is offered to us in the new digital world. Connecting the real world with virtual reality is within reach, not only in the cinema 3D. Experiments with implanting people microdevices that will ensure that their perception capabilities significantly expand have already begun. This will open before us entirely new ways of receiving or participating in a work of art.