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Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The (January 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595583963
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595583963
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,506,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


There is a transformation taking place in the way people create, organize and think about culture, declares public-policy analyst Bollier (Brand Name Bullies, 2005, etc.). He pins this transformation on the Internet, and particularly on "Web 2.0," which is more focused on conversation and community than its predecessor. Bollier believes that efforts to share software, upload videos and tend to Friendster pages are forging a new commons in the 19th-century sense of the term: a resource shared and managed by all its users.... [T]he author tells a good and important story, one that is likely to gain more relevance as time goes on and Web 2.0 has a greater impact on />

A good book for specialists and advocates....

About the Author

David Bollier is a journalist, activist, and public policy analyst as well as editor of onthecommons.org and co-founder of Public Knowledge. Senior Fellow at the Norman Lear Center, Bollier is the author of numerous highly praised books, including Brand Name Bullies and Silent Theft. He lives in Amherst, MA.

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Customer Reviews

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. D. Lasica on January 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
We needed someone to chronicle the creative ferment and astonishing changes whipping around us in the Web 2.0-enabled commons.

And now David Bollier has done so in his meticulous and very readable new book, "Viral Spiral" (New Press).

For newcomers to the world of Web 2.0, the Long Tail and crowdsourcing -- the social Web would have been a more apt term for the phenomenon Bollier describes -- Viral Spiral serves as an indispensable primer, laying out in rich detail the birth of Creative Commons, the role played by such seminal figures as Lawrence Lessig, Jimmy Wales, Hal Abelson, Tim O'Reilly and others, and the underlying dynamics of law and culture that are powering the rise of user-created media.

But even those of us deeply familiar with these subjects will come away with a deeper understanding of the social Web and the critical role that the commons -- the notion that we all benefit when we're free to build upon others' works -- plays in the massive upheaval now taking place in media, business and politics.

Bollier is perfectly suited to assay this landscape as the editor of OntheCommons.org and co-founder of Public Knowledge. He writes early in the book:

Individuals working with one another via social networks are a growing force in our economy and society. The phenomenon has many manifestations, and goes by many names--"peer production," "social production," "smart mobs," the "wisdom of crowds," "crowdsourcing," and "the commons." The basic point is that socially created value is increasingly competing with conventional markets, as GNU/Linux has famously shown.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Adam Thierer on January 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David Bollier's Viral Spiral is the first major history of the "digital commons" / "free culture" movement, and despite my many person disagreements with him and this movement, it is an excellent treatment of the topic. Bollier surveys this growing intellectual movement from its early open source days to the rise of the Creative Commons and on into the present. The cast of characters in this drama will be well-known to anyone involved in modern tech policy debates: Richard Stallman, Lawrence Lessig, Jonathan Zittrain, Yochai Benkler, et al.

There is absolutely no doubt that this intellectual movement is winning the war of ideas in cyberlaw front today. Personally, as a cyber-libertarian, I find myself occasionally at odds with these guys and this movement on a variety of policy issues, but that didn't stop me from enjoying David Bollier's treatment of this movement and these issues. It's certainly one of the 10 most important Internet policy books of 2009.
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Format: Hardcover
The Internet today seems to promote, as well as be the source of, our current culture of sharing - a disruptive culture that can sometimes seem as threatening as it is empowering. However, the story of how this came to be is no accident and is actually more interesting and complex than you might expect.

Viral Spiral by David Bollier traces the roots of modern free culture to the open-source software movement (namely, Linux, with its freely-accessible code) and why Larry Lessig, Richard Stallman, and Eric Elred are considered its founders.

You'll learn how Creative Commons (CC) licenses facilitated new Internet genres and business models. (Authors and artists use CC licenses to make their work legally "shareable" - forfeiting parts of copyright in advance so others can freely reuse, remix, and distribute.) "Precisely because a commons is open and not organized to maximize a profit, its members are often willing to experiment and innovate; new ideas can emerge from the periphery...businesses see these communities as cost-effective ways to identify promising innovations, commercialize them more rapidly, tap into more reliable market intelligence, and nurture customer goodwill" (Bollier, 142, 247).

This book also helps lay readers appreciate how debate over fair use has moved center stage and why definition of the public domain, while intricate, is too important not to tackle in this Internet Age.

According to the author, we can thank the concept of open networking for giving us:
* reduced barriers for new music dispersal
* greater access to research databases and scientific collaboration (e.g.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
From remix music to wikipedia and video mashups, there's a new world of digital media that has encouraged a new 'sharing economy' that competes with entrenched media giants, and journalist/activist David Bollier here reports on this 'free culture' movement in VIRAL SPIRAL, his term for the process by which Internet users can join to build online tools. Any library strong in the social issues revolving around the Internet needs this.
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