Booksimreading: The Wealth of Networks…


As part of an effort to think more and do less, I just started reading a new book: “The Wealth of Networks; How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom“, by Yochai Benkler. What do I think so far, after the first 30 pages?

“At the beginning of the 21st century, we find our selves in the midst of a battle over the institutional ecology of the digital environment,” says Benkler. “What characterizes the networked information economy is that decentralized individual action plays a much greater role than it did or could have (before)”… “the removal of the physical constraints on effective information production has made human creativity and the economics of information itself the core structuring facts (of our economy and our society).” Just as the proprietors of the new printing presses of europe used their economic clout to gain independence from the church and aristocracy, people today, both individually and in groups, are exploiting the economics of the internet to take on massively ambitious projects. An important difference, though is that they are often taking on these projects just because they feel like it, and not for economic reasons.
Friendship Wheel Collage, by choconancy.
It’s this idea that first caused me to pick up this book, actually. The amplification of the individual human as a social creature, as opposed to a “market actor”. This is a major change in thinking for some. Capital is less important than it has been in the past. Groups of individuals, acting from motivations unrelated to economics, can often organize themselves more quickly and effectively than a corporation can. I find this idea exhilarating. More as I read along…

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2 Responses to “Booksimreading: The Wealth of Networks…”

  1. Michael Cayley Says:

    Sounds cool. I will check it out. Don’t discount the corporation as the most potent form of human organisation yet invented though.

    Social media/networking methods and practices are just making their way into the arsenal of the corporation.

    Can you imagine when it becomes apparent that these methods have a direct and positive influence on corporate valuation. Corps will adopt tactics like corporate social responsibility with a whole new level of vigour, they will reinvest in employee loyalty, they will have a whole new motive for going into markets with inherently low social capital (i.e. those with a lack of democracy and rule of law).

    With these motives and practices the corporation can be far more powerful as a authentic global force than any fast acting collection of well intentioned individuals.

  2. Fergusson Says:

    I disagree. A corporation is always constrained by the requirement to generate profit. A group of people can take on a massively ambitious project that never, ever needs to make any money at all, or have any relationship to any money-making initiative or organization. Before the internet, that has been a role reserved for governments and religions. The profit motive is very motivating, and we have set up our society to favor corporations as actors in the economy and culture, but removing the necessity for profit is significant, and I don’t think we’ve yet seen the full scope of the impact that will have.


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