Digital Property Limits and Educational Implications


Figure 1: Data Ownership: Who Owns Data and Why It Matters, Robin Bloor (2020)


The definition of the term property implies possession and the capacity to act with respect to a merchandise or an object. On the Internet, all information is within reach and therefore belongs to any receiver who wants it. Therefore, this first premise of the term property already rules out its possible application to the large database with which the user interacts in the digital network. Furthermore, there is an information gap between the user and the service provider since there is an intentional lack of explanatory clarifications about the processing of data and the way to control the entire process (Cano, 2014).

“The data controller defines the criteria, creates the profiles, arranges the means of collection and application according to its interests, revealing a structural imbalance in the system” (Llácer, 2011).

The reasons for such communicative absurdity between user and provider of information may seem distant or perhaps imperceptible. However, they are based on the systemic gears that seek to redirect the behaviour of the community towards submission and control. The terminology used in terms of privacy in the network is a reminder of the dystopia presented by George Orwell in his famous novel 1984 (Orwell, 1948), that is to say equally alien and distant from the worldly conception. Therefore, it is clear that "it is necessary to create new legal and technical instruments that are really within the user's reach" (Cano, 2014) in order to start an effective conversation about property in the network.


This censorship on the provider’s part and the ignorance of the user produce certain paradoxical situations in the virtual environment. These concern the production and dissemination of content through digital channels, since, if users are unaware of the legal implications, they cannot ask questions. Then, some other questions need to be asked: Is the user no longer the owner of his/her own information but, instead, obtains power over what belongs to others, since it does not strictly belong to its author? Vice versa? Or both things at the same time? This contradiction leads to the question of ownership of the digital artistic work contained on the Internet. Walter Benjamin stated that the authorship of artistic projects is defined according to the ritual of creation because, in contemporaneity, more importance is given to the process than to the aesthetic result itself (Benjamin, 1936). Therefore, according to Benjamin, the creator of the artistic object will always be the owner of all its proprietary rights even if it is disseminated through the network. This argument does not stand in terms of normative legislation but has rational and moral characteristics that affirm its validity. Therefore, in deontological terms, every artist can consider his/her appropriative capacity of his/her own work, even if it is subject to possible reproducibility through the Internet.


Figure 2: George Orwell’s 1984 book cover, Greg Crimmins


Given the legislative implications mentioned, it can be affirmed that both digital art and those reproductions of strictly physical works on the net (art pictures) do not have legally based property rights. In spite of this, they are subject to rational and moral rules that give them certain independence while facing the loss of privacy on the Internet. Consequently, these rules, being of an ethical and behavioural nature, may not be adopted by a large number of users, who may even choose to take possession of other people's productions (an attitude that constitutes plagiarism if the action is examined from a deontological point of view). At this point, the need arises to educate for and with the virtual to promote collective awareness and responsibility as operational modes of conduct on the network. The aim is to reach agreements and finally establish a fundamental basis for the constituent elements of the network at the level of the users: its rights and duties.


There is no other way to teach information on rights, duties and collective awareness than starting from the beginning, that is, with children. Educating people the value of knowledge, always being aware of the versatility that is implicit in it. All this happens by stimulating the creativity of the youngest and offering them an art- and image-based education: the expressive medium par excellence in contemporary times. The academic art to which the general public is used to, governed by tradition and canvas, has given way to contemporaneity, to the idea of invention and freedom. To quote Arthur C. Danto:

“The statement that art has ended is a statement about the future: it is not that there will be no more art, but that art will be art after the end of art, or, as I have already called it, post-historical art” (Danto, 1997).

The art that Danto refers to is that which belongs to the Aesthetic Regime of Representation established by Jacques Rancière in his The Distribution of the Sensible (Rancière, 2009). The art that uses traditional processes, techniques and methodologies to relate the contemporary work with the spheres of the political experience of modernity. Therefore, there is a need to understand contemporary art. Current artworks not only invite the spectator to observe but also urge him/her to think and rethink the elements, characteristics, consequences and implications of the discourse by placing them inside the contemporary life. Moreover, the means to share the artistic image today is mostly digital.


In addition, education in contemporary art has other implications beyond the virtual that are necessary for the formation of the community as a whole. For instance, far from offering a simple history of a succession of artworks, it provides other more interesting concepts. The study of art implies the development of creativity, aesthetic awareness and a much greater understanding of reality. Therefore, it de-automatizes the subject by expanding his inventiveness, which makes him/her a more autonomous and therefore more critical individual. In turn, the study of Contemporary Art also addresses the political dimension of the present. Thus, any artistic discourse of contemporary art concerns the individuals and involves them. Therefore, knowledge of it can provide subjects with knowledge about themselves and their environment. This is the reason why contemporary art is given a key role in the training of the consumer and creator of audio-visual products: the user of the Internet.


Figure 3: Kids learning with Digital tools, DaysOfTheYear


Furthermore, this approach to art as an ideological manifesto is constituted as one of the tools of the community to process social reality. In this way, it becomes a fundamental element of education, because artistic training (the work, production and study of images) contributes to the growth of the individual's creativity. It also expands their critical eye and is thus established as an indispensable resource for the proper development of the conscious and consequent mind. An educated citizenry who will truly understand the functioning and implications of privacy on the Internet, its responsible uses and perhaps, new ways of healthier and more enriching virtual relationships with others.


Image references


Bibliographic references

  • Cano, Lorena (2014). Privacy in the digital scenario. Analysis of the European Union policy for the protection of citizens' data. [Final Master’s Project]. Directed by Dra. Carmina Crusafon Baqués at the Master's Degree in Journalism and Communication Research. Spain, Barcelona: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Available on: https://ddd.uab.cat/pub/trerecpro/2014/hdl_2072_240336/TFM_Final_Lorena_Cano.pdf

  • Danto, Arthur C. (1997). After the End of Art. United States: Princeton University Press.

  • Llácer, M. R. (2011). Protection of personal data in the information society and surveillance. Spain, Madrid: La ley.

  • Orwell, George (1948). Nineteen Eighty-Four. Spain: Debolsillo.

  • Rancière, Jacques (2009). The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible. London, United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. [1st. ed. 2000]


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Alicia Macías Recio

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