Networked information economy and society

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Networked Information Economy

The rise of the era of the networked information society

big changes in "Advanced Economies"

  • Production has shifted from the physical goods (cars, blue jeans, paper plates) to information goods and services (movies, wordprocessing software, tax preparation)
  • Communication tools have shifted from a centralized, mass-market approach (CBS primetime shows, ABC evening news, Howard Stern on the radio) to a much more distributed and interconnected approach (the Internet).

New ICT allow decentralized, non-market production.

"The central thesis is that a new stage of the information economy is emerging. The industrial information economy of the mid-nineteenth and twentieth centuries is now being displaced by the “networked information economy”, characterized by decentralized individual action carried out through distributed, nonmarket means."

"the design of new technologies (i.e. the Internet) allowed for user-to-user communication. Second, the price of computation, communication, and storage is steadily declining. In the old industrial information economy, the desire to communicate was often frustrated by price constraints on the mode of communication (printing, mailing, broadcasting)."

Non-proprietary models of production made possible by the networked information society also can be harnessed to promote justice and human development.

Enhanced Autonomy

improvement of individual autonomy in three ways:

  • improves individuals’ capacities to do more for and by themselves.
  • improves individuals’ capacity to do more in loose affiliation with others in a non-market setting.
  • improves individuals’ capacity to cooperate with others through formal or organized groups that operate outside the market sphere.

The Networked Public Sphere

greater participation in the public sphere

  • has given individuals alternatives to the news and commentary of mass media.
  • a new and more accessible forms for discussion and debate.
  • through both coordinated collective action and loose uncoordinated but coordinate action individuals can affect the content and focus of mass media news and commentary.

A Critical Culture and Networked Social Relations

emergence of a more critical and self-reflective culture, this process might be called the democratization of culture.

1) making culture more transparent

2) making culture more malleable.

"In the industrial information economy the technology that was used to create culture was expensive, or if it wasn’t, the technology needed to spread those creations was. (...) But in the networked information economy not only has the physical capital become easier and cheaper to amass, the economic constraints on distribution are far less in the digital world. Not only does this allow individuals to create and distribute cultural products, it also allows them to speak back to the cultural products they consume"

The Role of Technology in Human Affairs

A methodological assumption for Benkler's thesis. Possibilities that a technology offer, different actions, relationships, creations.

"Different technologies allow for different kinds of human actions and relationships."

"it does not state that technology dictates the kinds of actions and relationships that will arise. But it does suggest that, all other things being equal, if a technology makes it easier to perform an action that action will be more likely to occur; and, similarly, that if society lacks certain technologies which are pragmatically necessary to an activity, that activity is not likely to occur."

Example of Gutenberg printing press and different religious attitudes.

"the same technology (the printing press) had different effects on literacy in communities that endorsed individual worship and study of the Bible and in communities that discouraged such behavior."

"the role of the new technology upon which networked information economy is built can and will be exploited differently in different social structures. If we deny (as we should) technological determinism, we should also realize that there is no guarantee that this new technology will be exploited to improve society, enhance individual autonomy or promote democratic values."

"The role of this technology will be determined not just by its internal logic but according to our external societal attitudes."

Commons-based peer production

peer-production : a new mode of production, one that is powerful, efficient, and sustainable.

According to Benkler, “peer production has an advantage over firms and markets because it allows larger groups of individuals to scour larger groups of resources in search of materials, projects, collaborations, and combinations than is possible for firms or individuals who function in markets. Transaction costs associated with property and contract limit the access of people to each other, to resources, and to projects when production is organized on a market or firm model, but not when it is organized on a peer production model.” (Coase’s Penguin, 376-377)

Furthermore, commons-based peer production generates benefits to the society because it creates a context where individuals can become virtuous and contribute to the public good. As Benkler and Nissembaum claim, “commons-based peer production fosters virtue by creating a context or setting that is conducive to virtuous engagement and practice, thereby offering a medium for inducing virtue itself in its participants.” (403)

By participating in OS projects, peers develop and practice several virtues such as autonomy, independence, creativity, productivity, benevolence, charity, generosity, altruism, camaraderie, friendship, and cooperation. Besides that, “commons-based peer production generates new modes of contributing to the public good by facilitating the collaborative engagement of thousands of ordinary individuals in the voluntary, creative, communal, regular, non-commercial production of intellectual and cultural goods, for a wide variety of reasons and motives. (Benkler and Nissembaum, 417)

Key terms:

Peer Production- Production systems that depend on individual action that is self-selected and decentralized, rather than hierarchically assigned.

Decentralization- Conditions under which the actions of many users work together effectively despite the fact that they do not rely on reducing the number of people whose will or authority counts to direct the action.

Contemporary society is witnessing an emergence of more effective peer production that does not rely on the price system or a managerial structure for coordination.

The Act of Communication 1. The Utterance- writing an article or drawing a picture 2. Relevance & Accreditation- Rendering the utterance as worthwhile 3. Distribution- How one takes on an utterance, and distributes it to other people who find it relevant and credible

"I call this commons-based peer production. Commons (as opposed to property) because no one person controls how the resource is used, they are either open to the public or a defined group. Peer production because it is done through self-selected, decentralized individual action."

Peer-Production cooperation is usually maintained by a combination of (104):

  • Technical architecture
  • Social norms
  • Legal rules
  • Technically backed hierarchy validated by social norms

The Economics of Social Production

Why do people participate and collaborate outside of the profit motive? Why is this becoming a factor now? Is it really efficient? (91) Motivation

  • Extrinsic Motivations: Imposed from the outside such as money, rewards, of threats of punishment. (94)
  • Intrinsic Motivations: Come from within such as pleasure or pain (94)

Some studies have shown that adding money value to activities previously done for intrinsic motivations actually lowers the level of activity. (94)

Sociology-based view of motivation- two ultimate rewards for humans in a social structure (95):

  • Economic Standing
  • Social Standing

Some resources are more efficiently mobilized by social forces rather than monetary wealth (95). However, such resources are culturally contingent and cross-culturally diverse (96) as well as the relationship between economic and social rewards.

The amount which individuals are motivated by social rewards also varies between people. Yet, due to technological innovation, there are now conditions under which these social motivations can be turned into an important modality of economic production (98)

Commons-based peer production and social production are sometimes more efficient than market-based production (106)

2 scarce resources in information production (107):

1. Human creativity, time and attention 2. Computation and communications resources

changes in technology have caused social sharing and exchange to become a viable mode of production by lowering the capital costs required for effective individual action (121).

Networked Public Sphere

"The fundamental elements of the difference between the networked information economy and the mass media are

  • network architecture (distributed, multidirectional)
  • the cost of becoming a speaker.

"The first element is the shift from a hub-and-spoke architecture with unidirectional links to the end points in the mass media, to distributed architecture with multidirectional connections among all nodes in the networked information environment." 212

"The second is the practical elimination of communications costs as a barrier to speaking across associational boundaries."

>>> the potential: "Together, these characteristics have fundamentally altered the capacity of individuals, acting alone or with others, to be active participants in the public sphere as opposed to its passive readers, listeners, or viewers."

more speakers and participants in conversation and, ultimately, in the public sphere.

>>> the possibility is not always realized due to multiple factors, inequalities, dispositions, habitus, differential accesses.

"The qualitative change is represented in the experience of being a potential speaker, as opposed to simply a listener and voter. It relates to the self-perception of individuals in society and the culture of participation they can adopt. The easy possibility of communicating effectively into the public sphere allows individuals to reorient themselves from passive readers and listeners to potential speakers and participants in a conversation." (213)

>>democratizing potential of the Internet

  • Evolving tools (and information flow structures) of networked communication / catalogue of tools used to communicated in the networked public sphere : e-mail, mailint lists, www (and all its apps on the top), static web pages, blogs, various larger-scale, collaborative-content production systems (wikipedia, slashdot

the WWW, "enables a wide range of applications, from basic static Web pages, to, more recently, blogs and various social-software-mediated platforms for large-scale conversations"(216)

"blogs are part of a broader category of innovations that make the web "writable. That is, they make Web pages easily capable of modification through a simple interface. " "The second critical innovation of the writable Web in general and of blogs in particular was the fact that in addition to the owner, readers/users could write to the blog."

The writable web : allows conversations.

"Common to all these Web-based tools-both static and dynamic, individual and cooperative-are linking, quotation, and presentation."

"On the Web, linking to original materials and references is considered a core characteristic of communication.

"The culture is oriented toward "see for yourself." (...) Linking and "see for yourself" represent a radically different and more participatory model of accreditation than typified the mass media."

"The networked public sphere is not made of tools, but of social production practices that these tools enable." (219)

>>> information and cultural production activity of nonmarket actors but not all actors. There are certain conditions for doing that kind of social production of information and culture. The same with the production of knowledge.

"The primary effect of the Internet on the public sphere in liberal societies relies on the information and cultural production activity of emerging nonmarket actors: individuals working alone and cooperatively with others, more formal associations like NGOs, and their feedback effect on the mainstream media itself." (219)

"More fundamentally, the social practices of information and discourse allow a very large number of actors to see themselves as potential contributors to public discourse and as potential actors in political arenas, rather than mostly passive recipients of mediated information who occasionally can vote their preferences." 219