The Wealth of Networks Chapter Reviews – Chapter 7

@Kevin | Social

In Chapter Seven Benkler addresses the arguments that have been laid out against the networked public sphere. I thought that Benkler offered solid counter points to the typical remarks made against the public sphere, however I have a slightly different point of view than his in regards to his rebuttal statement about how the emergence of the public sphere will hurt the press and their position as the fourth estate.

At this point in our culture I think we can agree that the press has fallen from this esteemed position as being the fourth estate because of the current mentality of the media and the creation of the 24/7 news cycle. Deep, drawn out investigation is something that is no longer really done in this country because of how quick the attention on a story changes. In my analysis of chapter 6 I used the following quote, “Consumers (or subjects, in authoritarian systems) at the ends of these systems would treat the communications that filled the public sphere as finished goods.” (Benkler, p.180) The idea that the news story is a finished good and that the news shows need to continually have a new product because of the news cycle negatively impacts investigative journalism. Stations now don’t have the people to invest into long and drawn out reports that might not lead to a finished story right away and also they don’t think the American public has interest in it unless it is sensationalistic like the “To Catch a Predator” series on Dateline.

I think that this is where the web and blogs really step in and pick up the slack for traditional media. Longer in depth stories can be written about and investigated because of the narrow view of niche websites and the way the information is being presented. Because the web is about the conversation and the journey the story doesn’t have to be a neatly wrapped finished product. People begin to follow the process as much as the actual story. The process is important but so is the interaction with the people following it, you have an entire base of people that can offer up ideas, look at the story from different angle and participate using their expertise in certain areas.

In both examples that Benkler used in the chapter both stories involved the process. Each example had a semi-home base for the story with different sites adding layers to it. Each story had people participate by sharing their resources from site building, hosting files, compilation of a database, and to the examination of programming code. All of this helped round out the story and create the journey. I believe that the structure of a blog is perfect for this type of writing, where things are pieced together in short bursts over a period of time. These blogs and websites are taking over for traditional media as the watchdog, traditional media now feeds off of these sources and uses their work to report the story, which I think is a benefit of the emergence of the networked public sphere.