Benkler mini-lecture at HLS

Prof. Yochai Benkler is making the argument(s) of his new book, The Wealth of Networks, (500+ pages; buy it or write about it),
in 30 minutes here in Hauser 102 at HLS.  Whew — a lot of big
ideas, and big words, in a short space.  He is considering two
large problems.

1) What are the stable changes in the production of human knowledge and information?

– Commons-based production: the key is production without exclusion.

– Peer-production: large-scale cooperation among human contributors
without price signals or managerial commands.  Free and open
source software is hard to argue with, because it’s succeeded in the
marketplace.  But the phenomenon of peer production is in fact
ubiquitous.

– Most critical shift in terms of new opportunities: new platforms for
self-expression and collaboration.  People are trying to make
money from getting the point that platforms for self-expression can be
powerful: that’s what Web 2.0 is.

– IBM makes more in revenues from Linux-related activities than from patent revenues.

– These changes are a challenge to incumbent business models. 
These changes are threatened by IP laws and other funky new technology
laws.

2) And on to the politics: why should we care about the outcome of these political debates?

– Three reasons to care: autonomy (more we can do ourselves, or in
loose collaboration with others — see David Weinberger, Project Gutenberg), justice and
development, and democracy.

– There is no major democratic state that doesn’t post-date the rise of
mass media.  What does democracy look like when we introduce
social production?  Pentagon Paper is an early and important
example.  Diebold is a new one, in the lead-up to the 2004
election is
another, with Bev Harris and her distributed friends.  (Read the
book!)

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