David Tannenbaum sez, "Yochai Benkler just released his brand new book, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, under a CC license, along with a wikinotes wiki for commentary and cooperative augmentation. The book presents Benkler's pathbreaking work on social cooperation over digital networks in a delicious romp from software to telecom to medicines in the developing world. I wouldn't be surprised if this book does for the 21st century what Wealth of Nations did for the 19th. There is a book party open to the public tonight in NYC, at the super-cool digital "atelier," Eyebeam."
Benkler is one of my favorite writers about the economics of commons-based production. His paper, Coase's Penguin, does a better job of making sense of how the "economy" of contribution to free and open source software works than anything else I've ever read. How exciting!
In the networked information economy, the physical capital required for
production is broadly distributed throughout society. Personal computers
and network connections are ubiquitous. This does not mean that they
cannot be used for markets, orthat individuals cease to seek market opportunities. It does mean, however, that whenever someone, somewhere, among
the billion connected human beings, and ultimately among all those who
will be connected, wants to make something that requires humancreativity,
a computer, and a network connection, he or she can do so – alone, or in
cooperation with others. He or she already has the capital capacity necessary
to do so; if not alone, then at least incooperation with other individuals
acting for complementary reasons. The result is that a good deal more that
human beings value can now be done by individuals, who interact with each
other socially, as human beings and as social beings, rather than as market
actors through the price system. Sometimes, under conditions I specify in
some detail, these nonmarket collaborations can be better at motivating effort and can allow creative people to work on information projects more
efficiently than would traditional market mechanisms and corporations. The
result is a flourishing nonmarket sector of information, knowledge, and cultural production, based in the networked environment, and applied to anything that the many individuals connected to it can imagine. Its outputs, in
turn, are not treated as exclusive property. They are instead subject to an
increasingly robust ethic of open sharing, open for all others to build on,
extend, and make their own.