The broad spectrum of information and communication

The broad spectrum of information and communication technologies can be divided into three groups of technologies from the perspective of a human being using these technologies:

To act at a distance: automation and transaction technologies

To connect at a distance: social network technologies

To witness and be witnessed at a distance: surveillance and identity technologies

This distinction is based on the kind of performance a person may expect from each of these technologies and the kind of contribution they make to social interaction. Medical and biological technologies are not addressed here, even though they increasingly merge with the broad spectrum of information and communication technologies and they are developing possibilities for affecting human social interaction. However, the way technology and culture can be understood in the biological and medical discourse demands other approaches than those chosen here, which means they cannot be properly addressed. Apart from the occasional mention of possible links, biological and medical digital technologies will not be discussed.

The world of information and communication technologies is the context of this study. Surveillance and identification, and automation and transaction technologies, are part of the domain of information and communication technologies. They will be introduced below, but will remain in the background. The focus of this study is on how people interact socially. This is why I have labelled the element of information and communication technologies that deals with social interaction between people 'social network technologies', to distinguish them from the broader term 'information and communication technologies'. The political, industrial and economic structures that are reflected in surveillance, identification, automation and transaction technologies are included because they influence how people interact socially as well.

There are many ways of describing the state of the art and the impact of information and communication technologies. Since most of the people who read this book will have an idea about information and communication technologies, because so much has been written about it, I will only highlight some elements that affect the day-to-day human life of millions of people in the light of the UDHR. Some issues that I will shortly address below include liability and control, access for all, and the digital divide, the 'great new communication space', and violations in these new spaces, data identity and the design of databases, the sharing of knowledge and copyright, surveillance and the loss of trust. I will not elaborate on many of the issues that are mentioned below. I am providing these descriptions to offer a context for the work carried out in this study. In doing so I hope to convey a sense of urgency for thought on the social implications of the new digital information and communication technologies. The descriptions of automation and transaction technologies and surveillance and identification technologies are rather short. I elaborate more on social network technologies because they are at the heart of this study.