The Wealth of Networks

The Wealth of Networks is dense and wordy in a confusing, theoretical style. Yochai Benkler explores the culture shift from the industrial information economy to the networked information economy of the 21st century. Instead of information goods characterized by a centralized commercial action dependent on market strategies, information is now more decentralized and distributed through nonmarket means. The Internet is the reason for the emergence of a new information environment. The Internet allows individuals to take an active role in information and to reach and inform anyone, anywhere connected to a network. Some questions were raised as I read the introduction and started chapters 1-3. Since The Wealth of Networks was published in 2006, how would Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. effect the information and predictions of the future presented in this book? Benkler explains that people are becoming less dependent on mass media since they can easily seek information instead. Do people’s ability to seek information for themselves on the Internet mean the future of mass media is in jeopardy of extinction? Doesn’t file sharing and open information allow others to make helpful advancements and innovation? Is Benkler saying this is beneficial of harmful to the economy?

Facebook was just starting out when Benkler wrote The Wealth of Networks. Twitter had just launched in March of 2006. Google + was still years away from production. These are some of today’s largest social networks (and as Benkler says, human beings are social beings). He does not take into account these forms of networks in his arguments or predictions. However, the information presented is basic fundamental discussion of networks, despite the 2006 copyright. Professor Lackaff explained that the information explored, although it does not include social media, is still foundational.

The question about the future of mass media being in jeopardy of extinction was raised when Benkler said that people are becoming less dependent on mass media since they can seek information themselves instead. Although Benkler refers and compares to mass media frequently, he has not yet given a forecast for the future of mass media.

Benkler, being a professor of law, describes intellectual property extensively along with patents and copyright law. Copyright is the exclusive right to control reproduction, distribution, and use of original work. Copyright laws make information rivalrous (which contradicts Benkler’s definition that information is nonrival, having its own input and output) and create a constrained market. This ruins innovation. Benkler sees how the culture is shifting to file sharing and open information that is against copyright law. However, Benkler supports this idea of open collaboration. The book, The Wealth of Networks, being available in print and online, supports this observation. There is also a wiki of peer collaboration, which is what the book is discussing.

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