Earlier in the week I posted three questions that I would have asked Benkler regarding some of the points that he made in his book “The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom”. After class discussions and additional readings I feel I am a little better equipped to answer these questions today.

  • Benkler makes the point that digital communication may be reshaping the way we interact with each other. Would not situations like the one in Africa and the U.K. be a couple of examples of how digital communication is impacting society as a whole? I believe that Benkler would argue that social networks definitely served as a means of connection for these groups; and that they served as a collaborative community disseminating information to each other like file sharing. However, the outcome was positive for one group and negative for the other. I think another example of digital communication reshaping the way people interact with one another  is the case of U.S. Navy sailor Timothy McVeigh (not the Oklahoma City bomber) who was discharged when his superiors accessed his email account and found out he was gay. Benkler suggests that although the navy provided McVeigh with brotherhood, it also made him suppress who he really was as a human being–a gay man. Benkler stated, ” He used the network and its potential for anonymous and pseudonymous existence to coexist between these two social structures.” In other words, he couldn’t reveal his true self to his Brothers in Arms, but via digital communication he was able to free himself.

The next two questions really piggy-back off of each other, therefore, one of my answers will lead me to another.

  • Benkler also mentions how “thousands of volunteers will come together to collaborate on a complex economic project”; can these “peer produced” projects be sustained over time? To this question Benkler would say yes, I would say a very strong maybe but it is very dependent on the motivation of the collaborators.
  • We’ve learned in class and through our readings that there has to be some kind of motivation to keep people involved in peer produced collaborations; with sites like Wikipedia how do we know that people will not lose motivation to keep sites like these going?  With sites like Wikipedia you have to have that “collaborative community”, something so massive has to be patrolled by someone, rather a group of someone’s. Within Wikipedia itself there exists various groups that edit and re-edit the pages because they do not agree on the information that the other group has written; resulting in “edit wars”. They are no longer collaborating instead, they are fighting to get THEIR point across. The end result? The pages become blocked and no one can make any changes.
So would our economic system start to thrive by freely giving information instead of curtailing it? To this, I believe Benkler would say yes!

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