Reading: Benkler - Wealth of Networks: Chapter 1
Emergence of the Networked Information Economy
Two big changes in “Advanced Economies” (the major industrial powers: US, Britain, Japan,
1. Production shifted from physical goods -> information goods and services (movies, software,
2. Communication tools have shifted from centralized, mass market approach (CBS primetime,
ABC evening news) -> much more distributed and interconnected approach (Internet)
-These shifts lessen the market’s influence on politics.
-Second shift allows decentralized, non-market production.
-First shift means that this new form of production will play a central, rather than peripheral role,
in advanced economies.
These shifts came from:
-design of new technologies (like the internet) that allowed for user-to-user communication
-price of computation, communication and storage declining steadily
-Old industrial information economy, communication was often burdened by price constraints
(cost of printing, mailing, broadcasting, etc.) These costs were proportional to the audience so
the average individual could not afford to broadcast on radio/TV.
-Now it is extremely easy to broadcast (YouTube, SoundCloud, etc.)
-Non proprietary strategies have always been more common in the production of information
goods than in the production of of physical goods (public education, arts and sciences, political
-Numerous examples of effective, large scale, co-operative efforts to create information and
culture (think Wikipedia, TedTalks, etc.)
Benkler argues that the new form of production, known as peer-production, is a powerful,
efficient and sustainable means of production.
Networked Information Economy and Liberal Democratic States
-how we make, get, share, and receive information are central to freedom
-networked information economy affects four core commitments of democratic societies:
-a participatory political system
-a critical culture
Networked information economy has lifted market constraints on the ordering of liberal values
along four different dimensions: 1. Enhanced autonomy - networked information economy improves individual autonomy in
improves individuals capacities to do more for and by themselves (ex. can easily access a
wealth of knowledge on the internet, also easier for experts to share knowledge)
- improves individuals capacity to do more in loose affiliation with others in non-market setting
(ex. can gain knowledge without ever interacting with person who published it)
- improves individuals capacity to cooperate with others through formal or organized groups
that operate outside the market sphere (ex. Wikipedia). there is fluidity and low level of
commitment required for participation.
2. Democracy: the networked public sphere - networked information economy has allowed
individuals greater participation in public sphere. Happened in at least three ways:
- given individuals alternatives to the news and commentary of MASS media.
created new and more accessible forms for discussion and debate (comment sections on
articles, op-ed pieces, etc.)
- through both coordinated collective action and loose uncoordinated but coordinate action
individuals can affect the content and focus of mass media news and commentary (ex. a
blogger posts a news story before CBC and they copy)
3. Justice and Human Development - non proprietary models of production made possible by
the networked information society also can be harnessed to promote justice and human
development. There are at least two ways in which this happens:
- broad range of free software utilities makes it easier for poor and middle income countries to
meet their core software require