Customer Reviews

17
4.2 out of 5 stars
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
Format: PaperbackChange
Price:$20.07 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

107 of 112 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
First, I should note that The Wealth Of Networks is terribly edited. Given that Benkler thanked his editor for his Herculean work at the beginning of the book, I can only imagine the state it started in; as it is, it ended with glaring grammatical errors, including using "effect" when he meant "affect" and "wave" when he meant "waive". (I'll provide specific examples sometime tomorrow.) Editing, apparently, is a craft that is only noticed in its absence. I didn't realize this until I read The Wealth of Networks. By the time I was done with the book, I was copyediting every page.

None of this mentions the stylistic errors, which are rife. Benkler uses the first-person singular pronoun once, or possibly twice, in the whole book; its use is jarring. The rest is passively voiced and all the words are sesquipedalian. Nothing's wrong with inconsistency in style, when deployed artfully, but it feels more like an oversight here than a deliberate plan.

Those of you who've read the book will perhaps object to all this cavilling over style. Again, it's only noticeable because it's so bad; normally I would almost ignore the style and get to the meat of the argument. It was hard to do so here.

Benkler's argument is quite systematic and nearly has the force of pure logic. His claim -- propounded over a decade's worth of papers and synthesized in this book -- is that the new economics of the Internet fundamentally change deep parts of our culture. Cheap communication allows projects like Linux and the Wikipedia to emerge and more to the point work very well. Each of us can invest trivial amounts of our time and money, yet the end result is something much greater than any of us could have expected. Person A links to person B on his website, and lots of person A's follow along with their own person B's. Pretty soon there's enough information -- from our trivial little links alone -- that Google can come through and aggregate that information into a profoundly useful information-retrieval tool. Millions of people click on star ratings on Amazon, and pretty soon we can all get highly accurate suggestions about books we might like. I copyedit the Wikipedia, and so do hundreds of thousands of others; before long, the Wikipedia competes with Britannica.

Benkler's task is to take his understanding of what makes all this stuff tick, and think through the consequences. What does it mean for democracy when people can communicate cheaply? We're starting to get a taste of the answer with blogs. The media available for political discourse before the Net came around -- like television -- were passive. Someone else produced a lot of content at great cost, and pushed it out to a lot of stupid devices that couldn't really do anything interesting; televisions are "dumb terminals" for video. Now we can all be publishers for no cost, and the devices are smart enough that we can talk back and start conversations. Yes, we're still getting much of our news from old-media stalwarts like the New York Times, but the medium allows us to blog about it, post comments to others' blogs, and search around and see what others have said about it. All of this is possible because the publishing tools are getting easier, because communication is cheap, and because computers are increasingly available to everyone. We now have media that permit and encourage conversation; the old broadcast media never did.

In a world where communication is no longer passive, and where you don't need a multimillion-dollar television studio to get your ideas out to the world, democracy changes radically. For one thing, the fringes suddenly have a voice that they didn't have before. It's obvious, just from thinking for a moment about how mass media work, that they serve inoffensive pabulum to the least common denominator. If you can choose to broadcast a show that might offend people or upset them (say, displaying images from Abu Ghraib), or else broadcast the latest news about Brad and Jen, you will choose the latter in a heartbeat. The point in mass media is not to publish the widest array of views, but to maximize revenue. Maximizing revenue means appealing to the broadest mass of people, which in turn means being as inoffensive as possible.

It's not difficult to see that mass-market media incentives are quite different than the incentives that a democracy should strive for. Commercial interests are not our interests, orthodox capitalist training to the contrary. So what happens when media become non-commercial, like blogs? Suddenly you have millions of people who can get their ideas out to the world, and lots of things happen. For instance, it becomes clear to people that there's more than just the Republican Party and the Democratic Party -- or even Republicans, Democrats, Greens and Libertarians. The whole tone of the culture changes. Biting commentary gets airtime. We become active. We argue, like people in a democracy are supposed to.

All of this is not pie-in-the-sky idealism. As Benkler makes very clear, it's kind of inevitable. The axiom is basically this: people will do more of what's easy for them, and less of what's difficult. With the cost of communications technology now negligible, lots of things become easy.

The objection that not everyone is a blogger is irrelevant. It may in fact be true that the majority of Americans are passive dullards. Even if it is, the fact remains that there is a new set of technologies that let many of us do things that we couldn't have done before, and it would take willful blindness to believe that this leaves democracy unchanged.

Benkler builds out the argument in considerably more detail and considerably more verbosity. He wants you to understand what is likely to come out of all of this, what the challenges are, and where the promise may lead us. It's a tremendous synthesis.

Alas, it will take people like Larry Lessig to make Americans understand this promise; Benkler has confined himself to academia. As I may have mentioned, I've heard a lot of trashing on Lessig recently -- that he's a shallow thinker who wasn't even a good enough lawyer to win Eldred. I've heard Benkler's book described as a landmark that people will be discussing in 20 years. Allow me to disagree. I think Code is a much more important work, both for the ground it cleared and for its rhetorical power. I think Lessig's later book Free Culture could actually get people storming the gates of Disney, whereas Benkler will never.

More to the point, Benkler's work seems like much more of a look back than a plan for forward motion. If you already use Linux and have internalized its lessons, you hardly need the theory that Benkler gives you. If you have really thought about the Wikipedia, then you can skip over that chunk of his book. A copy of Code and a thorough understanding of the GPL will probably give you 90% of what The Wealth of Networks does.

In twenty years, The Wealth of Networks will stand as a very nice description of the world as it stood in 2006. Code will mark the beginning of a movement. As someone who is ensconced in that movement, I believe that everyone should have a copy of The Wealth of Networks on his shelf and a copy of Code in his pocket.
55 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
88 of 96 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Edit of 14 Apr 08 to add links (feature not available at the time).

Lawrence Lessig could not say enough good things about this book when he spoke at Wikimania 2006 in Boston last week, so I ordered it while listening to him. It arrived today and I dropped everything to go through it.

This book could well be the manifesto for 21st Century of Informed Prosperous Democracy. It is a meticulous erudite discussion of why information should not be treated as property, and why the "last mile" should be built by the neighborhood as a commons, "I'll carry your bits if you carry mine."

The bottom line of this book, and I will cite some other books briefly, is that democracy and prosperity are both enhanced by shared rather than restricted information. The open commons model is the only one that allows us to harness the distributed intelligence of the Whole Earth, where each individual can made incremental improvements that cascade without restraint to the benefit of all others.

As I write this, both the publishing and software industries are in the midst of a "last ditch" defense of copyright and proprietary software. I believe they are destined to fail, and IBM stands out as an innovative company that sees the writing on the wall--see especially IBM's leadership in developing "Services Science."

The author has written the authoritative analytic account of the new social and political and financial realities of a networked world with information embedded goods. There have been earlier accounts--for example, the cover story of Business Week on "The Power of Us" with its many accounts of how Lego, for example, received 1,600 free engineering development hours from its engaged customers of all ages. Thomas Stewart's "The Wealth of Knowledge," Barry Carter's "Infinite Wealth," Alvin and Heidi Toffler's most recent "Revolutionary Wealth," all come to the same conclusion: you cannot manage 21st Century information-rich networks with 20th Century industrial control models.

Lawrence Lessig says it best when he speaks of the old world as "Read Only" and the new world as "Read-Write" or interactive. His fulsome praise for this author and this book suggest that the era of sharing and voluntary work has come of age.

On that note, I wish to observe that those who label the volunteers who craft Wikis including the Wikipedia as "suckers" are completely off-base. The volunteers are the smartest of the smart, the vanguard for a new economy in which bartering and sharing displace centralized financial and industrial control. Indeed, with the localization of energy, water, and agriculture, this book by this author could not be more important or timelier.

One final supportive anecdote, this one from the brilliant Michael Eisen, champion of open publishing. He captured the new paradigm perfectly at Wikimania when he likened the current publishing environment as one in which scientists give birth to babies, the publishers play a mid-wifery role, and then claim that as midwives, they have a perpetual right to the babies and will only lease them back to the parents. What a gloriously illuminating analogy this is.

I will end by tying this book and this author to C.K. Prahalad's "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid." That other book focuses on the fact that the five billion poor are actually worth four trillion in disposable income, versus the one billion rich worth one trillion. C.K. Prahalad posits a world in which capitalism stops focusing on making disposable high-end high cost goods, and turns instead to making sustainable low-cost goods. I see the day coming when--the avowed goal of the Wiki Foundation--there is universal free access to all information in all languages all the time.

If Marx and his Communist Manifesto were the tipping point for communism, this book is the tipping point for communal moral capitalism. Yochai Benkler is--along with Stewart Brand, Howard Rheingold, Bruce Sterling, Kevin Kelly, Lawrence Lessig, Jimbo Wales, Ward Cunningham, Brewster Kahle, and Cass Sunstein, one of the bright shining lights in our constellation of change makers.

He ends his book on an optimistic note. Despite the craven collaboration of the U.S. Congress in extending copyright forever into the distant future, he posits a reversal of all these bad laws (it used to be legal to discriminate against women and people of color) by the combination of cultural, social, economic, and technical forces that have their own imperative. Would that it were so, sooner.

See also:
Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge
Infinite Wealth: A New World of Collaboration and Abundance in the Knowledge Era
Revolutionary Wealth: How it will be created and how it will change our lives
The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the Twenty-first Century Organization
Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Power at the Edge of the 21st Century
The New Craft of Intelligence: Personal, Public, & Political--Citizen's Action Handbook for Fighting Terrorism, Genocide, Disease, Toxic Bombs, & Corruption
Information Operations: All Information, All Languages, All the Time
Peacekeeping Intelligence: Emerging Concepts for the Future
THE SMART NATION ACT: Public Intelligence in the Public Interest
Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace

I beg indulgence for listing five books I have published. I know you all know about Smart Mobs, Wisdom of the Crowds, Army of Davids, etc. See also the literature resilience, panarchy, and social entrepreneurship.

Peace (and prosperity) for all, in our time.
44 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I have been hearing about Yochai Benkler's book, "The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedoms," for some time and his exposition around what he (and many others) have called the "networked information economy." Benkler, a Yale law professor, also offers his 527 page (473 in text) book as a free PDF from his web site under a Creative Commons share alike license.

First, let me say, there are a couple of worthwhile insights in the book, which I'll get to in a moment. But mostly, I found the book overly long, often off-subject, and too political for my tastes. In fairness, some of this might be due to the fact it was written in 2005 (published in 2006) and the social and participatory aspects of the Web are now widely appreciated. Yet I fear the broader problem with this polemic is that it proves the adage that you see what you look for.

Benkler's argument is that cheap processors and the Internet have removed the physical constraints on effective information production. This is in keeping with the non-proprietary nature of information as a "nonrival" good, and is also leading to the democratization of information production and the emergence of large-scale peer-produced content. Benkler generally allies himself with the camp of technology optimists. His observations about trends and new developments from Ebay to Wikipedia to SETI@home and open source software are now commonly appreciated.

With the costs of information duplication and dissemination trending to zero, the limiting factor of production becomes human creativity and effort itself. But here, too, with hundreds of millions of Internet users, just a few hours of contributed content from each can easily swamp the ability of even the largest firms to compete. These trends to Benkler presage a "radical decentralization" of information production, and many other changes to the political economy and culture.

That radical changes in the nature of information production and authorship and even the role of traditional publishers or the media are underway is without question. Purposeful collaborations like Wikipedia are now clearly successful and were not forecasted by many.

The lens, however, in which Benkler looks at all of these trends is through the "modern" history of the mass media. Citing Paul Starr's "Creation of the Media," he notes how in 15 years from 1835 to 1850 the cost of setting up a mass-circulation paper increased from $10,000 to over $2 million (in 2005 dollars). In Benkler's view, these cost increases shifted the ability to publish away from the common citizen into the "problem" hands of the mass media. Fortunately, now with the Internet and cheap processors, this evil can be reversed. Though Benkler specifically disclaims that he is not describing "an exercise in pastoral utopianism," the fact is that is exactly what he is describing.

There can be no doubt that the role of mass media and traditional publishers is under severe challenge from the emergence of the Internet. It is also the case that we are witnessing citizen publishers and authors emerge by the millions. These changes are momentous, but they do not involve everyone -- only comparatively small percentages of Internet users blog and still smaller percentages contribute to Wikipedia (about 80,000 at present based on a user base of hundreds of millions). And, as the traditional gatekeepers of printers, publishers and editors lose prominence, new institutions and mechanisms for establishing the authoritativeness and trustworthiness of content will surely need to evolve.

These real trends deserve thoughtful exploration.

However, there is a reason that publishing costs increased so rapidly in that era of the 1800s. Mass publishing and pulp paper were emerging that acted to bring an increasing storehouse of content and information to the public at levels never before seen.

The explosion of information content that occurred at this very same time correlates well with the fundamental historical changes in human wealth and economic growth. Though mass media may prove to be an historical artifact, I would argue that its role in bringing literacy and information to the "masses" was generally an unalloyed good and the basis for an improvement in economic well being the likes of which had never been seen.

By taking a narrow historical horizon and then viewing it through the lens of the vilified "mass media," Benkler is both looking in the wrong direction and missing the point.

The information by which the means to produce and disseminate information itself is changing and growing. These changes in information infrastructure support an inexorable trend to more adaptability, more wealth and more participation. What we are seeing now with the Internet is but a natural continuation of that trend. The "mass media" and the costs of information production of the 1800s was a natural phase within this longer, historical trend. The multiplier effect of information itself will continue to empower and strengthen the individual, not in spite of mass media or any other ideologically based viewpoint but due to the freeing and adaptive benefits of information itself. Information is the natural antidote to entropy and, longer term, to the concentrations of wealth and power.

By trying to push the trends of the Internet through the false needle's eye of political economics, an effort that Benkler also erroneously makes with his earlier analysis of the growth of radio, what are in essence historical forces of almost informational or technological determinism are falsely presented as matters of political choice. Hogwash.

Benkler, however, does observe two useful dimensions for measuring social collaboration efforts: modularity and granularity. By modularity, Benkler means "a property of a project that describes the extent to which it can be broken down into smaller components, or modules, that can be independently produced before they are assembled into a whole." By granularity, Benkler means "the size of the modules, in terms of the time and effort that an individual must invest in producing them."

Benkler's insight is that "the number of people who can, in principle, participate in a project is therefore inversely related to the size of the smallest scale contribution necessary to produce a usable module. The granularity of the modules therefore sets the smallest possible individual investment necessary to participate in a project. If this investment is sufficiently low, then incentives" for producing that component of a modular project can be of trivial magnitude. Most importantly for our purposes of understanding the rising role of nonmarket production, the time can be drawn from the excess time we normally dedicate to having fun and participating in social interactions."

To illustrate this effect of granularity, he contrasts Wikipedia with its simple entries and editing and bounded topics with the far-less successful Wikibooks, which has much larger granularity.

Creators of social collaboration sites are advised to keep granularity small to encourage broader contributions, and if the nature of the site is complex, to increase the number of its modules. Of course, none of this guarantees the magic or timing that also lie behind the most successful sites!

I think that Benkler's arguments could have been more effectively distilled into a 30-page article, with much of the political economy claptrap thrown out. The book is definitely worth a skim.
66 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon April 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Be forewarned that this brilliantly conceived book is not so brilliantly written, and the reading can be a real slog at times. Yochai Benkler is a perceptive social theorist but his thoughts are bogged down in academic writing that could really use some editing. Expect excessive introducing, foreshadowing, recapping, and summarizing, giving you the often tiresome impression that you will read Benkler's prose again or have read it before. This book also suffers from what business strategists and military tacticians would call "scope creep," as Benkler's broad theories on society and knowledge become so all-inclusive as to border on diffuseness and ineffectiveness - a problem that really slows down the middle section of the book. This is a common difficulty for vast unified theories about information and humanity, so prepare for some difficulty in following the main points that Benkler is trying to make.

But now that those warnings are out of the way, beneath Benkler's ponderous prose are insightful theories about the rise of networked culture, inspired by the digital revolution, in the face of lockdowns from entrenched power players. The initial uses of open networks inspired a megalomaniacal reaction from the industrial and political sectors, which have partially succeeded in forcing technological design changes, and persecution of new cultural behaviors, that threatened their economic and political dominance. For instance, intellectual property laws (patents, trademarks, and copyrights), which were originally meant to encourage cultural production, have been transformed by power players into tools to enforce corporate profitability. And if you think concerns over those trends are merely alarmism, Benkler provides profound evidence that damage really is being done to culture, freedom, and democracy - in ways that are far deeper and more troubling than the (corporate-inspired) popular rhetoric around piracy, rolyalties, and hackers.

Benkler informatively differentiates the types of freedom that are at stake - personal, cultural, social, and political - and ably demonstrates how each are affected by trends in infrastructure development, media behavior, corporate profiteering, and political gamesmanship. One especially winning chapter deals with how the rising network society can promote justice and development in third world areas that are not currently connected and may never be. The corporate and political insistence on regulating the information infrastructure and criminalizing user behaviors may represent a losing battle against the basic human drive to network and create, as can be seen in trends like open source software and community wi-fi. Benkler's main point here (when you're finally able to uncover it) is that humanity may be on the brink of a major change in the way we process culture and information, thanks to the growth in open worldwide networks. The old school power players won't go without a fight, adding unnecessary strife to the process, but Benkler has faith in humanity's ability to transform and rise above [~doomsdayer520~]
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2007
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I highly recommend reading Yochai Benkler's book.

It is a balanced articulation of what the Internet and Web 2.0 are enabling in the development of new forms of social collaboration that are not adequately recognized as such by both private/regulated market advocates and welfare advocates. One of the things that struck me most is Benkler's capacity to create a perspective in which he can show that these new forms of collectives are rooted in old practices that have existed forever.

He also shows that these practices can gain major significance if:

1. The neutrality of the web, access to the web, Open Source initiatives, and the General Public Licensing type of legislation are improved,

2. The aggressive move toward Intellectual Property laws and regulations, and control by corporations, is counter-balanced.

Excellent read!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Professor Benkler discusses the idea of social production, goods being produced by communities rather than corporations, as a third way to think about development. He also discusses the affects that social production will have on the status quo, and in particular, Intellectual Property laws. His is a methodical and extremely well researched argument that will leave you thinking about what the 21st century may bring.

Don't be put off by the length of the book. Professor Benkler's prose is quite clear and his arguments easy to follow. I liked the book enough to have him as a guest on my show and I believe it is one of the major books of 2005.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
I first became familiar with Benkler after reading his paper, "Coase's Penguin" in undergraduate study. I was delighted to hear of the publication of this book. Benkler continues beautifully where he left off in his previous papers and synthesizes an excellent theory of social production in his book.

Benkler begins by describing the economic shape of information - it's non-rival and builds upon itself. He explains the challenges that face information, particularly the Babel Objection. Benkler also covers some legal background on aspects of a "liberal society", such as the role of commons versus private property.

From there, he makes his way into peer production. He touches different aspects of this type of production, from open source to distributed content production & filtering (click workers) to the results of the FCC's shift towards commons-based wireless policy. I found chapter 4, where he connects social production to the economic concepts discussed earlier, to be the most interesting chapter of the book.

He moves on to a lengthy discussion of the political effects of network distribution and social production, including a summary of the history of mass media and predictions about the future. From there, he lays down his argument that we ought to continue to encourage open networks and information sharing. He presents a discussion on current legislation and legal challenges to information and provides some examples of solutions.

I read this book coming out of an undergraduate program in Information Science and wished I had read this book perhaps my sophomore or junior year. Benkler essentially lays out, in linear form, the precise message that my professors were teaching. Because of networks, information science in the 21st century will not follow the traditional industrial-style of distribution but rather a distributed and non-proprietary model. Its impact is phenomenal, not only in the realm of economics and science but politics, culture, and interpersonal communication.

This book ought to be required reading for every undergraduate student studying Telecommunications, Media, or Information Science.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I agree when some people say the book is not well edited (even not being english my first language I found some errors within it) but I think the greatest think about it is the attempt to explain something that it is easy to see that is happening today but nobody know why is happening. You know people write in Wikipedia and that most of them do that at their free time, you know that some people participate in great collaborative efforts to develop free software in the Internet, you know people keep blogs to express their point of view. But can you explain why that happens, why do they do that expecting no financial return or acknowledgment? What do they want? Perhaps you may know what you want when you do or don't some of that things but what about the rest of the world, if you care about it? What has changed or is changing or still must be changed in the societies so that happens?

The author doesn't explain it too but he tries to do it, it is an initial attempt to get some answers. His argumentation through the book covers many aspects of our lives, economic, political, social, antropological, legal and I think that at least at the end you will have some new insights on what is all that about.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
First published 2 months before Twitter was publicly launched, Yochai Benkler's Wealth of Networks hit stores in May of 2006, but still provides a startlingly accurate picture of today's 2009 world. In a world where Facebook, YouTube, and MySpace receive over 250 million unique visitors every month, where traditional advertising revenue is in double-digit decline, where 95% of all songs downloaded last year weren't paid for, and where Wikipedia has 13 million articles in 200 hundred different languages--it is clear that old ways of creating and disseminating information are breaking down and being replaced. Wealth of Networks provides a lucid analysis of this upheaval and the competing forces struggling with in it, as well as elucidating the consequences that might result from dominance by just one of these forces.

In Wealth of Networks Yochai Benkler discusses the emergence of a new "networked information economy" that breaks much from earlier industrial modes of production. The rise of technology innovation in creation, distribution, and storage of digital information creates an environment more conducive to the rise of effective non-market, non-proprietary forms of production. Benkler sees the shift provided by the falling marginal costs of creating, distributing, and storing informational goods as an opportunity to rethink the institutional structure by which the information economy is governed. Rather than attempting to harness these changes that fly in the face of conventional economic logic, Benkler advocates opening ourselves to the potential provided by peer production, and a commons based approach to the information economy. He argues that there are both economic and social benefits to the emergence of a significant non-market space in the information economy, but cautions that existing intellectual property laws could serve to retard this growth. Based on his belief that the rise of non-proprietary models will enable greater personal autonomy, personal freedom, expanded political democracy, and more extensive cultural transparency, he advocates for the creation of an institutional structure that will support the emergence of an increasingly non-market informational economy.

Benkler's argument gains strength by utilizing arguments based on both economic efficiency and on normative social desirability. Benkler demonstrates that a commons based and not proprietary approach to informational goods may result in increased efficiency because it reduces the cost to future innovation. He points out that extensive licensing may limit future advancement because so much of informational technological growth relies upon work that has come before. Moreover, he explains that this commons based approach will result in a more equitable distribution of informational goods in the future. Not only will it encourage future innovation in advanced societies, having low-cost informational products will enable lesser developed nations to access key informational goods enabling them to address issues of specific relevance in their nations. He uses the development of medical treatments for diseases plaguing the 3rd world as an example of this by pointing out that in a proprietary model the economic incentives for 1st world pharmaceutical companies to research these is minimal, and that the cost for 3rd world companies or non-profits to do so on their own is prohibitive. A frequent criticism of an informational commons argument based only on reason of equity is that it would be economically detrimental to the major pharmaceutical companies. Thus, by addressing the economic efficiency component as well as social benefit Benkler provides a much stronger and multi-faceted argument.

Benkler clearly articulates the benefits of the networked information economy, but spends very little time on the costs. His prognosis seems positive when viewed from the light of personal freedom and democracy, but for those of us who do have some concern over money the issue of what will happen to the information based economies of the developed world remains somewhat fuzzy. If the model of non-proprietary production comes to dominate it seems it will result in a tremendous transfer of wealth out of the monetarily based market. Will we reap the benefits of increased democracy, and more ability to function autonomously only at the cost of a downward change in our standard of living? How will we replace the monetary value lost to the non-proprietary market? Benkler basically ignores these questions because he is much more concerned with answering questions about the normative social costs and benefits, as well as refuting claims that information is not efficiently produced in a non-proprietary system. However, it seems that there are very real economic implications in terms of monetary cost that would result in significantly shrinking the industrial information economy, and Benkler could have benefited by acknowledging this problem even if it were just in a brief nod to the wrenching effects they may have.

In conclusion I highly recommend Yochai Benkler's Wealth of Networks because it hits upon the core tensions at the center of the modern informational revolution that is occurring and still rings uncannily true despite the rapid changes that have occurred in the years since its publication. While it lacks acknowledgment of the monetary cost adopting an information commons approach might exact this is largely due to the face that Benkler is more concerned with non-monetary social gain, and in this arena Benkler mounts an impressive, detailed, and incredibly persuasive argument. In many ways this book reads as a call to action with Benkler reminding us to be vigilant because in this moment of transition the choices we make will decide much more than the future of copyright, but the future of our own freedom, and even the future of democracy the world over.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
The Wealth of Networks is a good read for anyone interested in reading one painstakingly encompassing book about new trends in networked organization (wikipedia, open source, globalization, etc.). It covers every major theory and example in the literature.

That said, it reads like an academic journal. The author spends a great deal of time carefully categorizing concepts into typologies, many of which don't matter unless you like arguing semantics.

Recommended for anyone who reads theory for recreation. For everyone else, I'd go with "Crowdsourcing".
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed

The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance
The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance by Stephen Goldsmith (Hardcover - August 25, 2014)
$29.52

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky (Paperback - February 24, 2009)
$12.18
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.