Wealth of Networks: An Invitation to Shape the Future

9 03 2007

This book has opened to me the following possibilities:
It has helped me look at our current world and see some driving forces that are in conflict. First, as Benkler calls it, the “Industrial information economy” and the “Networked Information Economy”. I can boil this down to the confrontation going on right now between Microsoft and Google, the increasingly heated debate regarding licensing with Google being a proponent of Creative Commons and Microsoft sticking to standard copyright practices. I’ve heard about it, creative commons, and its potential benefits, but in all honesty it seemed like a fringe movement, ill articulated and raw. Boy was I wrong. Benkler has an incredible powerful articulation of how this current conflict or struggle is reshaping of our cultural landscape. This is happening now, and at an accelerated rate.

We already live in a world where open source software can compete quite compentently against very well established corporations, like Microsoft for example. A loosely connected network of people collaborating with each other can create wikipedia.org, leaving Encyclopedia Britanica on the shelf collecting dust. So is the path of evolution set towards “Networked Information Economy”? It seems inevitable that the confrontations and frictions will increase, and pivotal that we change our current course.

While this power struggle exists in the big scheme, the space for action is here now, for millions of individuals and might not be here indefinitely. And whether that space continues is only dependent on us using the tools.

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One response

10 03 2007
sarahcove

Benkler’s book for me brings forth very interesting possibilities as well. We are in a time when the space of the future of the commons is being shaped. And this space has new possibilities opened by networked information that hadn’t been possible in the past.

This book brings powerful distinctions, well-grounded in highly-supported networked discourses, including economics and political theory (?), to bring forth the possibilities of the phenomena in a powerful way.

Two distinctions that I liked are:

Inefficient is an economic term where a good is sold at a price higher than the “marginal cost” of a good — which for information is zero. In a networked information economy, versus an industrial information economy, goods can be distributed at a cost close to zero and so are more efficent than information goods produced in an industrial society.
In Chapter 2: he shows that information and culture are seen in economics as different produced goods than material goods. They are “non-rival” — a good that when consumed by one person does not make it any less available for consumption by another. Also, these information goods are by the “input and output of [their] own production process.” These two factors build copyrighting, or propertying (?) as an “inefficient” market process.

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