Thursday, October 12, 2006

Reading - The Wealth of Networks

So, 3 months later and my library has finally delivered my order of Yochai Benkler's The Wealth of Networks - How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom.

Sure enough, after reading through the introductory chapter, it is an impressive read.

So far it has had me thinking about:
  • the shift from mass mediated information to networked - p10
  • an counter point to the common objection of information overload - p13. "..Individuals become less passive, thus more engaged. Attention in the networked environment is dependent on being interesting to an engaged group, than it is in mass media - where moderate interests to large numbers of weakly engaged people is preferable.."
  • the increased capabilities of individuals as the core driving social force behind the networked information society - p15
  • a response to individualism further fragmenting communities and continuing the trend of industrialisation: Internet is impacting on television and we are using the Internet to communicate with family and friends. But at the same time, our social ties are shifting due to the increasing range of diversity in our newly established connections...

I'm observing Benkler is at fault in my view, of wording in the global sense but almost only ever using US examples. This starts me wondering how much of what Benkler identifies as important (legislation, democracy, freedom, individualism, access and many other things) as being very dependent on your (US) view of the world...? This is already most apparent to me in his section in the introductory chapter starting p13, Justice and Human Development, where he does little to acknowlege digital divides, and the success of pirate software over free software.

But where is really started to get interesting was towards the end of the introduction, where he articulates the 4 methodologies he is approaching things with:
  1. technology not as deterministic or entirely malleable
  2. economic sociology
  3. liberal political theory with economics and markets as a basis
  4. individualism and anarchism

Finally, to finish the intro and motivate me to read on:

".. we must recognise... what is fundamentally a social and political choice - a choice about how to be free, equal, productive human beings under a new set of technological and economic conditions. As economic policy, allowing yesterday's winners to dictate the terms of tomorrow's economic competition would be disastrous. As social policy, missing an opportunity to enrich democracy, freedom and justice in our society while maintaining or even enhancing our productivity would be unforgivable..." p 27 and 28.


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