Benkler: The Wealth of Networks
”The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom” by Yochai Benkler, published in 2006, has transformed our most fundamental understandings of our economy, democracy and society over the past decade. It traces the new ways in which we produce and share ideas and information, including the important role of “commons – based” peer production – the kind of production that generates phenomenons like Wikipedia and Linux. The book demonstrates the promise of these new developments for individual freedom, cultural diversity, and social justice. The Harvard Entrepreneurial Law Professor Benkler, made it available free and licensed under Creative Commons. As a direct “experiment of how books might be in the future“, the author allows to further it socially, authorizing us to add value and collaborate, building on the legacy of the visionary premise. It is perhaps, one of the most important information age books of the 21st century, and consequently it helps to have a PhD to fully understand it, due to the academic level of writing.
Benkler’s focus on society collaboration, as it relates to the capitalistic market economy, argues the difficulty of the latter to generate a degree of an accurate individual expression on a per-transaction basis. Blogging, like many other open-source productions, does not require a contract specifying content, it works from the bottom-up, rather than a hierarchy: people make what they want, and the best material succeeds. Now, we have the opportunity to develop technology and information ourselves and no longer depend on big corporations to raise capital.
If we depend on information products for our individual well-being, does it help when the current market economy interferes to restrict the process of creating such information? In an Industrial Information Economy, commercialism is essential, designed to appeal to the market, where the few have chosen the product or information to be distributed. The author advocates the power of the Network Information Economy as an “aggregation of human knowledge,” a key factor in shaping wildly distributed technology and increased productivity at a lower cost production. It also serves to “better identify the best person to produce a specific component of a project, considering all abilities and availability to work within a specific time frame.” Replacing the traditionally ingrained mass-media model with open-source forms of copyright (GPL, CC), removes the physical and economic limitation influencing social production in a technologically advanced society.
The book encourages us to imagine the possibilities for such positive change and redefine how information, knowledge and technology is used today.
” We have an opportunity to change the way we create and exchange information, knowledge, and culture. By doing so, we can make the 21st century one that offers individuals greater autonomy, political communities greater democracy, and societies greater opportunities for cultural self-reflection and human connection.“
The New Open-Source Economics, 2005 TED talk:
Related media and articles
- The Carr-Benkler wager and the peer-powered economy (gigaom.com)
- The Penguin and The Leviathan: The Science and Practice of Cooperation (youtube.com)
- The Guardian: Blueprint for Democratic Participation (fora.tv)