The Wealth of Networks Chapter Review – Chapter 1

@Kevin | Social

At the start of the semester I brought up the fact that I am taking a class that focuses on “The Wealth of Networks” by Yochai Benkler. I was going to share various chapter reviews and forgot to do it, so I am going to take the time to share them now.

Chapter 1
“The networked information economy improves the practical capacities of individuals along three dimensions: (1) it improves their capacity to do more for and by themselves; (2) it enhances their capacity to do more in loose commonality with others, without being constrained to organize their relationship through a price system or in traditional hierarchal models of social and economic organization; and (3) it improves the capacity of individuals to do more in formal organization that operate outside the market sphere.”

The enhanced autonomy that Benkler discusses in the first chapter of The Wealth of Networks is something that draws me into the information economy. One of the positives of the shift to this economy is the ability of various workers to eschew traditional means of employment and carve out a profitable niche for themselves. New media stars such as Darren Rowse of, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, Ryan Caldwell of PopCrunch, and many others have learned how to become a credible media voice while not working for mainstream media outlets but on their own. Some of these writers like Arrington and Caldwell have had their stories quoted in mainstream media sources like Time Magazine, CNN, and multiple newspapers. These writers are all examples of what Benkler talks about when referring to ones capacity to “do more for and by themselves.” (Benkler, p.8)

Another benefit of the information economy is that it gives people working for traditional corporate powers the ability to work and grow with a company in non-traditional ways. In the industrial economy many people had to work within a system that was based around the corporation. In order for someone to accomplish anything within this system they had to work in an area where the corporation functioned and worked your way through the ranks of said corporation. If you didn’t live within the boundaries of these traditional power structures you were unable to gain employment with these powerful companies.

Now with the advent of the information economy people all over the world can work for these powerful companies and rise through the ranks in a non-traditional way. When you combine the value that is being placed on the information that people produce and process over traditional production and the use of technology, workers can do their jobs from beyond the walls of the corporation. This is also forcing corporations to adapt in order to attract and retain talented people who might not be available to work within the industrial economy model. Forty percent of IBM’s workforce has no official workplace; one third of AT&T’s managers work from home. (Business Week) Other companies such as Best Buy are looking at ways to move positions from management to order taking to remote positions.

I think that the information economy and the enhanced autonomy that it provides has created the opportunity for a workforce to be truly global and mobile. Giving some workers the opportunity to take advantage of the best opportunity presented to them no matter their location or their employers. As the economy continues to shift people will be able to how and where they work more than ever before.