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The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom

Traditionally major projects required serious capital infrastructure and had to be funded by governments or industry. But commons-based peer production is changing that, because computation, communications, and human resources are widely-distributed among the population. One odd thing about human resources -- creativity, etc. -- is that you can't contract for them.

Notes produced collaboratively on SubEthaEdit

Yochai Benkler

Condensed version of the Wealth of Networks

Two Claims: Wikipedia is a salient cultural example of a phenomenon tied to the particular economic transformattion caused by networked computing. And when this kind of system is injected into modern democracies, we begin to see a more active and engaged form of democracy.

1835-1850: Newspaper startup costs in NYC went from 10,000 to 2.5 million dollars (in 2005 dollars). The modern communication system went to a commercial scale that created a bifurcation between producer and consumer.

Radically decentralized capitalization in the last five years

Widely distributed computing and communication resources--the decentralization of this social behavior that has long existed is now at the very core of the info economy

Commons based peer production--production without exclusion -a subset of this is Peer Production--large scale cooperation without price signals or managerial commands (the core of how industrial production worked)

Deep Skeptics who say market will take care of it all--the divergent paths of apache and microsoft (70% and 20% respectively) suggest the market will not. These traditional forms of control are deeply threatened by this new form of production.

The threat to traditional business models.

Now that costs do not prevent people getting together and producing, we see these emerging forms of communication and media. Social sharing and exchange alongside the core price and managerial economy.

| market-based | non-market

decentralized | price-system | social sharing & exchange

centralized | firms | government; non-profits

Radically decentralized authority and practical capability to act: diverse motivations, particularly intrinsic and socio-relational allows diverse insights, capabilty, availability and attention

Crowding out creates a complex relationship with money and/or management

Larry and Eben- differing notions of fairness--demands reciprocity (GPL, Creative Commons) versus take it, why not (BSD)

From finished information/cultural products to platform based self-expression

Social Production is a fact--sustainable and growing fast but threat to established business models---and this is the basis for politics and the battlefield over things like net neutrality and copyfight


AUTONOMY, DEMOCRACY AND JUSTICE all can be improved by these new forms of exchange and collaboration

Our modern democracy occurs within the mediated public sphere (dromocracy)--we will begin to see how these new media will change the public sphere. Example of Diebold-Blackbox voting and the ensuing effects of how problematic these voting machines were.

Internet democratizes (and critique)--see chapter seven--nodes uplink in the public sphere

Critical Culture--plasticity and malleability--reemergence of repressed folk cultures--RW--transparency, critical evaluation

HDI - Human Development Index

  • all components of it depend on knowledge

Justice--commons based production is starting to do things

"A2K" - access to knowledge movement

what's at stake is the shape of our economies and more importantly, our democracies in the next 30-50 years

to miss the opportunities to make improve our freedoms, democracy, would be a travesty


it's not personal, it's business is the refrain. but for fs advocates is that it is personal: "You bet it's personal!"

jason calacanis question: you wrote on your blog that when you start paying people that weren't get paid, you create a (different class?). comparison to paid firefighters and volunteer firefighters.

a: it wasn't a blog, it was a comment on another blogs a: what i dislike about the way i presented your challenge as representing volunteers as suckers

(andrew cut off jason and told him to take it offline)

Is there potential for e-goverment? Peer production is a solutions space. Skeptical that this will happen in the near future.