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The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
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The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  1,682 ratings  ·  50 reviews
With the radical changes in information production that the Internet has introduced, we stand at an important moment of transition, says Yochai Benkler in this thought-provoking book. The phenomenon he describes as social production is reshaping markets, while at the same time offering new opportunities to enhance individual freedom, cultural diversity, political discourse ...more
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published May 16th 2006 by Yale University Press (first published January 1st 2006)
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Sep 29, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Finishing this book was like pulling teeth. I really did not enjoy it. I only forced myself through all 500+ pages because it is considered an important part of the canon on social media research.

Benkler attempts a compendium of how the Internet is changing the information economy but he does not make new or bold assertions. In fact, there is very little in terms of theory or anecdote that I have not already read in works such as Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky, Convergence Culture by Henr
Morten Blaabjerg
Jul 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly enjoyed this book when it came out, as an audio book - it's a well considered and well researched, carefully laid out argument, in Benkler's rock solid but charming style. I enjoyed it so much I bought the hardcopy, despite the fact that there's a downloadable pdf-version available for free online too. But I had to own it and have it on my shelf for future reference. Can recommend Benkler's many conference performances as well in an audio or video format - the first one I heard was on ...more
Sep 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is quite long but I haven't seen any better analysis of the relationship between current technological, economic, legal developments, and how the relationship of production and consumption is changing in the process. I find the book a bit weak on sociological insights. But still very worthwhile read. ...more
Mar 22, 2018 rated it liked it
The book is split in three parts, and broadly speaking the purpose of each section is as follows. Part 1 provides the analytic basis for social / nonmarket means of production; part 2 explores normative conceptions of freedom as they relate to emerging modalities of economic production and social communication; and part 3 catalogs various policy responses to the ways in which technology is fundamentally changing how humans interact and transact.

Stylistically, the book is incredibly, painstaking
Jeffrey Hart
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is required reading for all who want to understand the broader implications of the Internet. Benkler argues that the Internet and related technologies “have increased the role of nonmarket and nonproprietary production, both by individuals alone and by cooperative efforts…” [p. 2] Many of the laws, institutions, rules, and procedures developed to govern societies during the industrial era may need to be revised to reflect the growing importance of nonmarket and nonproprietary productio ...more
Carrie Rolph
My recommendation is that you stay as far away from this book as possible. Not because it's bad, actually it's really good, but it's dense and long and covers fourteen million different subjects, which is why the last two weeks of class we all kept saying hey, Benkler talked about that! It's one of those books that I read and hated and then everyone discussed it and I didn't hate it as much, but it still made my brain hurt. And maybe I still hate it a little bit too, but now it's in my brain and ...more
Oct 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
I trudged through Yochai Benkler’s “The Wealth of Networks”, his award winning treatise on how social production is transforming societies. Benkler, the Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard, writes that mankind is on the cusp of a shift in cultural and personal practices due to the multitude of cheap and easy to use communication tools. At the core of Benkler's story is the emergence of new information sharing methods in which individuals are able to take an active role ...more
Mar 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I legal and economic critique of copyright and patents. It changed my mind entirely on intellectual property
Alexander Smith
Nov 03, 2018 rated it liked it
The primary value of this book for a social scientist is in part 1. There are topics in parts 2 and 3 worth looking at, however for those who have read about Internet policy and law, these are arguments that have existed since the early 90s. A historical look at the past two regimes of telecomm law and policy covers a great deal of the arguments made in this text.

The valuable part, is part 1 which, in summary, suggests that the "hackers" of the 70s and 80s are the developers of a political econ
Aug 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Phewf. This is a bit of a chaotic read. Benkler presents an optimistic vision of how he thinks the internet could reshape the production of knowledge. He argues that the internet decreases the capital costs of producing information and democratizes content creation and consumption. As a result, he thinks people will be freer to form their own opinions, learn, and utilize information for both economic advantage and social justice. This view reads as wildly optimistic in 2017, though Benkler never ...more
Nov 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book is too big to fit in my brain, and I read it too slowly to have any kind of coherent response. On the whole, I agree: peer production is both righteous and effective for a lot of things, a networked information economy is generally better than the mass media information economy, and we should be very afraid of legal actions that threaten these things (e.g. erosion of net neutrality, increased intellectual property rights, etc). I already believed in those things (I am, after all, both ...more
Nikhil Kumar
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a lucid and prescient thesis that examines the social-economic-political implications of emerging technological trends in information and communications systems. It incisively questions the socio-economic assumptions of the old, centralized industrial production model while presenting the emerging new, decentralized networked information production model. While optimistic about the impacts of this change for freedom, justice and equity, this book is also foresees the policy challenges th ...more
Anjar Priandoyo
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: technology
I get the idea of this book, that social production will change the market and freedom. Changing the market part is interesting, however when discussing the impact on freedom, law, and society, I think this book is not for me. Its a difficult and complex concept. I will visit this book later, as a reference in social media, this book is basic and a canon in social media research.
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: technology
What a wonderful book!

Benkler provides an incredibly insightful and well-reasoned look into the reality and potential of means of production that are outside of the financial system. He argues that these have always been a major part of production (parents swapping babysitting, friends giving rides, etc), but that the new networked information economy (primarily the Internet) is dramatically increasing the scale and scope of opportunities for this sort of production.

One main argument is that we
Simon Hampton
Aug 08, 2011 rated it did not like it
I agree with David - this book does not live up to billing. I totally subscribe to the thesis that the world of content production is changing, and that social production is a vital part of the future of the "knowledge economy". But the policy conclusion I think Benkler was trying to get to was that today's regulation - geared to proprietary content production - inhibits social production. However, his evidence of the success of social production and no compelling economic arguments in favour le ...more
Ross Perlin
Nov 29, 2010 rated it liked it
Building on Lessig’s insights, but generalizing them for a wider range of internet-related phenomena, Benkler champions the networked society, especially the free software movement, peer-to-peer sharing networks, and the internet’s influence on social relations and justice in the developing world. He puts together a detailed argument with attention to both technical and legal questions, though it gets repetitive at times. Historical insights help too: he sees our regulatory environment as still ...more
Jesse Biroscak
Aug 31, 2013 rated it liked it
REALLY dense book. I don't think I've ever read a book where the author himself actually notes that it's hard to read.

That said... I'd recommend it. If you're interested in the "wealth" that networks have within them, this is a must-read. It is a genuinely hard, super-academic book that WILL take you a long time to read. Benefits far outweigh the costs. 3 Stars because it didn't have to be so difficult to read. I think when a fantastically complex topic like networks can be made easier to diges
Eric Mccoy
Aug 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Previous comments that the book is too general are accurate. This generality makes it difficult to "see the forest through the trees" and results in the manuscript reading more as a collection of essays about topics regarding the information economy. Despite its generality the book was thoroughly researched and worthwhile to parse for choice information. For example, I am interested in information economics' effect on law and policy, and the penultimate chapter helpfully reinforced known informa ...more
Sep 12, 2008 added it
Benkler breaks down motivation into three separate reward types: monetary rewards, instrinsic-hedonistic rewards, and social-psychological rewards. In some cases a monetary reward could be inversely related to social-psychological satisfaction. For example (Benkler’s example), a friend who invites you to dinner might be offended if you tried to pay him/her. Realizing these differing motivations, a prospective project might focus its efforts on setting up non-monetary benefits. Interesting read.. ...more
Alex Hoekstra
Apr 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Poignant and provoking - Benkler explores the opportunities we face, as well as scrutinizing the biggest threats to their emergence. We stand on the verge of a new age, but our evolution is not guaranteed. We have every reason to fear for progress and if we don't account for the threats and address them thoroughly and with great zeal, the incumbent powers that be will rob us of the potential we have in order to maintain their dominance (even if at the expense of the creative and productive capac ...more
Aug 02, 2012 rated it liked it
There are some great ideas buried deep within rather wordy prose. Benkler is more engaging is person (i.e. watch the various presentations of the ideas in this book available through you tube). He seems to have a habit of fearing that you are not appreciating what he is conveying so he tends to come at the same point from a variety of perspectives in each chapter. The trick I suppose is to click to this mode of operation and when you feel that he has made his point skip along to the next major p ...more
Nick Doty
Mar 27, 2013 rated it liked it
I suspect it would be quicker and more satisfying just to read the Coase's Penguin paper and skip this more extended version. Still, the exploration of economic analysis of non-market motivations for information contribution is pretty fascinating and really important. While Benkler alludes to standards bodies, open source hierarchies and the general importance of institutional ecology, that part is handwaving, when it's clear those details are essential.

I didn't realize the title/allusion until
Apr 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Monumental undertaking that did mostly everything it set out to do. While it may appear a little dated at this point, I think the larger, structural arguments that Benkler is making reasonably stand up. One could fault him for being a bit too optimistic about the transformative potential of the Networked Information Economy while being a bit too unrealistic about industrial capitalism's staying power, but that is a minor quibble. This pairs well with another densely researched work on networks, ...more
May 16, 2010 added it
This is another important book for people interested in the Internet or Web culture.

Spanning cultural ownership, mass amateurization, crowdsourcing, and other Web phenomena, this book paints an important portrait of how the world is changing as a result of low transaction costs and group-formation.

A dense but pleasant read.
Jul 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Tremendous work delving into the role and importance of open source philosophy and the social networking influence of the internet. Definitely an academic work. It suffers from occasional obtuse passages, and some overwriting, but it a comprehensive resource for liberty-loving geeks everywhere.
Aug 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academic
Authoritative and scholarly analysis of the social, political and economic impacts of online networks. Unlike almost every other book on the subject, this was not out of date before it was even published. An antidote to the giddiness that still attends commentary of the internet.
Mar 01, 2010 added it
Shelves: motw
Read by ACRL Member of the Week Stephen Francoeur. Learn more about Stephen on the ACRL Insider blog. ...more
Margaret Heller
I think I've been reading this for 6 months. I finally finished reading the whole thing all the way through. And now I know what the word "orthogonal" means. Look for a more scholarly discussion of this book's message in an article coming to you... soonish. ...more
Nigel Street
A thorough and well presented insight into the social and legal ramifications of the internet. Of particular interest is the arguments for a less copyright and patent driven world to drive innovation and ultimately wealth in all corners of the world.
Jun 03, 2007 is currently reading it
Not a review of the content, but in hardback this book is heavy!
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Yochai Benkler (born 1964) is an Israeli-American author and the Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard Law School. He is also a faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

From 1984 to 1987, Benkler was a member and treasurer of the Kibbutz Shizafon. He received his LL.B. from Tel-Aviv University in 1991 and J.D. from Harvard Law S

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