James Boyle’s Shamans, Software, & Spleens: Law and the Construction of the Information Society (1996) can be thought of as a polemic against how particular practices of authorship and intellectual property rights have been conceived to be either legal or illegal.  Grounding his analysis of the information age within the context of modern liberal economics, as well as placing the differential role that information plays in the public/private dichotomy, Boyle questions the “implicit frameworks within which the regulation of information is discussed are contradictory—or at least aporetic—and indeterminate in application.” (34) Boyle takes on various sub-categories in how information has been determined and regulated—insider trading, blackmail, copyright, patents—and argues of the necessity in reconstructing much of the narrow-minded analysis that a economic-legal approach provides. More importantly, Boyle complicates current understanding of intellectual property by applying how legal courtrooms act as gatekeepers to information that could ultimately benefit the public good, but instead, has been warped to maintain the very machinery found in any capitalist regime. His examples of the 1976 John Moore v. University of Medical Center, which deconstructed whether individual humans have ownership over their own personal genetic information, was noteworthy to illustrate the role that academic and medical institutions have in order to not “hinder research” (23).
    Among his more analytical approaches to the current state of information regulation, Boyle presents the reader with his notion of the romantic-author, a historical and social construct that he traces to the days of European Enlightenment; whereupon Boyle applies this conception to theorize various opportunities whereby information might serve not only as incentive for private wealth and commodification, but rather, as a possible agent for the promotion and protection of public, egalitarian social wellbeing. If not, Boyle cautions, “we all lose” (179). One thing that struck me reading this text was obviously the intensity that information regulation has undergone since Boyle’s turn of the century publication. During one of his many abstract deductions, Boyle writes:  
        But what about an intellectual property claim? If, and it is a big if, the basis for social feelings about             the evil of slavery is a natural rights formation about the inherent equality of natural persons, then             transgenic species and AI both offer a number of soothing and profitable ways to distinguish                     intellectual property from slavery. These are not “natural” persons but artificial ones. We recognize that         corporations—as “artificial” legal person—do not have the full range of rights possessed by natural             persons. It would be “consistent” to say the same thing about these newly created sapient entities.             (153)
However, as the 2010 Supreme Court ruling, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, suggests, corporations are indeed “natural” citizens now, with the protection of free speech rights as guaranteed by the U.S. First Amendment. Similarly, with recent technological advances in the fields of android technology (I’m thinking Japan in particular), would it not be fair to suggest that Boyle’s capital letter If, is really more of a When? If androids have been legitimized as intellectual property, then what this suggests is that Boyle’s analysis of the information age has in fact re-birthed notions of ownership to “living” beings. It would be interesting to contrast how discourse regarding the “civic rights” of U.S. corporations in turn reflects current (or upcoming) discourse in the protection/defense of “artificial/civic rights” of AI and transgenic beings.
Discussion Questions:
1)    How has the rapid corporatization of public universities further perpetuated dominant understandings of intellectual property? What are the politics that go behind being published in a university press or academic journal with regards to Boyle’s conception of the romantic-author?
2)    What social implications might arise with the further development of AI and transgenic technologies on the unsettled issues of human racialized and immigrant labor exploitation? Specifically, I am questioning whether the information age might provide a means by which human labor (and with it the politics of race, immigration, wage exploitation) might be eradicated due to a market-commodification of AI technologies?
3) What might Boyle say about about recent developments in U.S. information systems, seemingly to be convoluted between the military-academic-industrial complex? In this post 9/11 society, where all electronic information is being automatically saved, does this neoliberal security state disrupt all forms of public egalitarianism?

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