"Wealth of Networks:" Basis for knowledge?

Yochai Benkler is out with his much anticipated book, "Wealth of Networks," based on the "emergence of sharing and collaboration as modalities of economic production," according to Bruno Giussani at Lunch over IP.

Ever since reading the BusinessWeek article on peer production, "The Power of Us," I've been interested in a better explanation of the mechanisms underlying the phenomenon. If, as the article suggests, the firm and the market have been joined by a third value producing method, it represents a turning point in economic history. BusinessWeek:

Peer production... creates value with neither conventional corporate oversight nor market incentives such as payment. 'The economic role of social behavior is increasing,' he [Benkler] says. 'Things that would normally just dissipate in the air as social gestures become economic products.'

In recent months there has been some push back to the idea, notably the suggestion that these "social gestures" amount to free labor. Whether in fact power is being re-appropriated to a broad swath of people, information is more widely available than ever before, and in its understanding, value.

Work on the nature of information is also occurring in law - how is creative value fairly apportioned - and philosophy. In fact, a philosophy of information now supposes something like an atomistic basis for knowledge, which is much different from the historic understanding knowledge as justified + true + belief. If so, the study of information is foundational to the arts and sciences in a couple of ways. Knowledge can be usefully appropriated in community without being fully articulated, or soar majestically as language in Shakespeare's King Henry IV. More on that later.

The Wealth of Networks is, appropriately enough, available in whole or part for download under a creative commons license. Thanks, Bruno, for the pointer.

Wayne

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