Free or Proprietary: The Paradigm Shifts of Data and its Role in Society
Authors:Adam Keppler, Adam Keppler
Mentor:Chris Loeffler , Professor of Anthropology , Irvine Valley College
Technology is a rapidly growing force; its influence is profound and ubiquitous. This research study takes a combined historical, economic, and anthropological approach to examining the effects of the proprietary model of software development both on the industry itself and on the daily lives of individuals. The hypothesis of this study is that the development of the software industry according to the commercial system of the propriety model has had two significant effects. Firstly, within the industry it has stifled innovation by preventing the free flowing circulation of code—which had previously been shared up until the late 1960s—and by suppressing competition. Secondly in the lives of individuals, the most troubling consequence of the corporate proprietary model has been the manner in which user data is collected and capitalized upon, often without the users’ knowledge; such data collection and exploitation has resulted in the violation of users’ rights and has profoundly challenged traditional concepts of privacy. Originating as an idealist reaction to the control imposed on both industry and society, the free-software movement strives to reach an extreme deregulation of copyright on software. Unlike free-software’s radical approach, the open-source movement a later derivative of the free-software movement continues the attempt to find a suitable alternative, without becoming an extreme in and of itself. Through exploration of the history of patent law, examination of social media privacy policies, literature review, and original documents, this study investigates these trends and also considers the open-source model of software development as a potential or partial antidote to both problems associated with the proprietary model.