Open net-seminar on Benkler's "Wealth of Networks"

Siva sez, "Crooked Timber is hosting a great seminar on Yochai Benkler's new book, The Wealth of Networks. CT solicited commentary essays from Henry Farrell, Dan Hunter, John Quiggin, Jack Balkin, Eszter Hargittai, and Siva Vaidhyanathan. Benkler has responded to all of them. The discussion ensues in the comments. This is an excellent teaching tool."

I've just started reading Wealth of Networks and it's just blowing my mind. Benkler's articulating the case for open source, open content and other collaborative efforts in a way I've never encountered, making the case that what we've got here is a new mode of industrial production, something not subject to the traditional economics of charity, government spending, or capitalism. As a reminder, the full text of the book is available under a Creative Commons license, too.

Henry Farrell argues that not only formal institutions but also informal norms are necessary for these technologies to enable proper collaboration. Dan Hunter celebrates the book, but worries that it covers too many topics, and that it's written in language that non-academic readers may have difficulty in understanding. John Quiggin examines the underlying motivations behind the production of common resources, and suggests that Benkler's arguments point to major flaws in innovation policy. Eszter Hargittai suggests that inequalities in the ability to participate may mean that these new technologies won't do as much to flatten social hierarchies as they might seem to. Jack Balkin claims that Benkler's book isn't so much about new modes of cooperation replacing market mechanisms, as existing side-by-side with them. Siva Vaidhyanathan argues that Benkler's book is guilty of a soft form of technological determinism, which overemphasizes the positive consequences of new technologies and implicitly discounts the less positive. Finally, Yochai Benkler responds to all of the above.


(Thanks, Siva!)