Benkler sees information as a part of the commons. To some degree we are going through a second Internet revolution, where ownership of information is decentralized, created by the people for the people. He attributes this change largely to the creation of cheap technologies that have given a wide range of access to the information economy, which belongs to the commons.
Benkler first distinguishes between two types of information environments:
INDUSTRIAL INFORMATION ECONOMY (BEFORE): exemplified by how we exchanged information from the 1850s to the early 2000s. The exchange of information was limited by a central force, or “market.” This was due to the high capital costs required to produce and exchange information in large quantities. Once these physical restraints were removed, we see the emergence of a new type of information economy…
NETWORKED INFORMATION ECONOMY (NOW, EMERGING): the key distinction of this type of information economy is that it is decentralized, cooperative, communal. The capital requirements to produce and distribute information are little to none. This freedom allows a true democratic spirit of information dispersal, where people are an integral part of the consumption AND production of information. Information is distributed through non-market mechanisms. This means that the distribution of information flourishes in response to the general public’s interests, rather than something like mass-media advertising that relies on the market mechanism of purchasing power.
How did this “networked information economy” emerge?
1] advanced economies shift to a information-based economy, but there is still centralized control by a market force: mass media?
2] from here, the Information-based economies develop cheap processing/computation capabilities. The physical constraints are removed, and the production of information becomes cheap and easy.
3] non-market information production begins to take its place within the sphere of market based information distribution. While there is market based mass-media that distributes based on purchasing power, there is also non-market based network information distribution where the power of distribution is not in money, but in its popularity and relevance to the network of people.
4] the open-source software “production” model beings to pervade other domains ex. Wikipedia. Peer production for peer consumption. This is exactly what Benkler means by a networked information economy that exists independent of a market force, or the mass media.
5] Individual need and creative drive, keep the spirit of the network information economy going. So does the idea of the commons, and the community that it creates within the digital realm.
How does the “networked information economy” provide means for self-governance?
Benkler states that this new information economy provides an even more varied means for self-governance, perhaps even enhancing what democracy really means. He states that individuals can do more for themselves, without having to rely on the cooperation of others, or with loose affiliation to others. Of course, he notes the advantages to these loose affiliations: exposure and diversity. However, I am skeptical of the low commitment to collaboration/communication with people that he seems to be praising so highly. He also states that groups can create networks, independent of mainstream media or established institutions. While the Internet itself was an emblem of democracy, it was still somewhat centralized. However, emerging networked information economy is the next step towards an even more democratic state, where people can organize regardless of official status.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How specifically would you say something like open source software, or a peer driven domain such as Wikipedia, illustrates our previous reading of Lewis Hyde’s the gift? How is the idea of giving to receive evident in the new network information economy?
Benkler praises the emerging networked information economy for its ability to allow anyone from anywhere (with a network connection) to speak, creating a “new and rich information environment.” He also talks about the Babel objection which states that “when everyone can speak, no one can be heard.” Is the information economy helping us or hurting us? Is it really allowing us to know more? While we may be exposed to more intellectually stimulating topics, what are the shortcomings of an excess of information? (for example: every time I want to learn how to do something, I simply google it. Does this lessen my ability to figure out things for myself? Am I truly learning, if I don’t engage in the process of try, fail, try, fail, try, succeed?
The free flow of information in the Internet age has always been argued as emblematic of democracy. Benkler makes the distinction between the industrial information economy and the network information economy. Just as there is a difference betwee these two types of information economies, can you find a parallel distinction between our previous perception of democracy and our new view of democracy? (think occupy wall street..)
- I think that community gardens ONLY work in an urban context… The density is what makes it a thriving opportunity for life and interaction. In an urban context, people not only lack the space, but also the sense of place and belonging. Even though a city is full of people, people seem to get caught up in the daily grind of things and forget about what really makes us happy: human interaction. In an urban context we get swept away by ambition, success, and climbing up the social ladder. Human relationships start to become less about the people, but more about what they can do for you. Having a community garden puts people who visit it at an equal level, and inspires them to work together, regardless of race or social class, to achieve a common goal. Like the reading stated: “…for the relief of the poor, the benefit of the rich, and the delight of all…”
- Guerilla gardening reminds me of how ABC NoRio was once a revolutionary act for community artists and squatters, but how the essence of it being “revolutionary” was lost once it was more commonly done. Maybe to some degree, we, as New Yorkers, are numb to the constant popping up of “new” and “radical” ideas.. that we are now numb to these new and radical ideas. However, the Guerrilla gardening as an act of defiance against capitalism and mainstream consumer culture was actually started as a result of the Depression “to provide a dignified way for people to work towards self-sufficiency.” While Guerrilla gardening’s origins are rooted out of necessity, it evolved into a political statement. It moved from something forced to something chosen.
- Globalization, globalization, globalization. This is what Fuller seems to be emphasizing. If he is not emphasizing the globalization of resources, he is emphasizing the globalization of information. In an era just briefly preceding the information age, his proposal seemed dream- like, but to some degree, what he wanted is already happening now. “Society’s subconsciously established confidence in the computer” is carried on even today. However, just as the grassroots movement is taking a step back and re-evaluating, we will also take a step back a realize the limitations of computers and hard quantifiable facts.
“If a tree falls in the middle of the forest…and no one is there to hear it…does it make a noise?”
In the same sense…space is not space without people there to occupy it. Most of the time great public spaces are well designed because they have designed an interaction, or a system of engagement, whether it was intentional or not. There were probably a multitude of unexpected interactions with the fountain at Washington Square, for example. In the winter, when the fountain is empty, there are spontaneous soccer matches and the fountain even doubles as round stadium seating for informal performances. In the summer, when the fountain is on, people come to swim, dip their feet in, etc. The square has been treated, more or less, with a high level of spatial equality, allowing the people to define the space as they wish. Washington Square is an example of a public space whose sense of “place” was created by the people. Like many distinctive public areas that have been treated with spatial justice, the space speaks for itself through its diversity of people, and the interactions that inevitably occur because of this. The space grows from this freedom.
However, if demonstrations of “spatial power” dominated the area, Washington Square would be an empty soulless park just for show.
Is the redevelopment of Union Square simply a microcosm of what has happened all over Manhattan? Manhattan seems to be the heart of New York City, where everyone comes to BE and BECOME, to THRIVE and EXPRESS, and to ACCESS and CONNECT, all definition of “spatial justice.” However, the whole island has been gentrified… can we still say that is a place of spatial justice?
Re-development of Union Square was a result of false aesthetics and references to an imaginary past.
An area is “ripe for gentrification” when property values are driven down by people who seek to benefit from its re-development. Oftentimes neighborhoods will be driven down into deterioration and devalorization through “invisible hands.” But these invisible hands are actually developers who seek to reap profit from the widening rent gap that would result after gentrification. Developers use these neighborhoods as playgrounds for their games with money. They like to pretend like they are the good guys who have come to “revitalize” the neighborhood, when in fact they are the ones who brought it down.
“The economic function of the neighborhood has exceeded the larger social function”
Marx said “capitalism attempts to ensure its own survival.” He uses it as a statement about the over accumulation of capital and how it ends up flowing into building projects because it is seeking to switch its capital investment into other sectors of economy…or rather, it has no where else to pour its excess. As a result, the investment in the built environment, because of the large-scale projects, requires involvement from bureaucratic institutions that may develop their own private interests in neighborhood gentrification. In the end, the institution is unavoidable, and capitalism is always about the unending flow of resources, goods, and most of all, money. Capitalism has designed a way of thinking that penetrates not only what we buy, but the way we buy. And it not only affects the way we use goods, but the way we use people. The neighborhood has become a commodity, whose profit is there to exploit and reap the greatest benefit for a very limited amount of people.
Is it possible to have development without gentrification? Of course it is, but the problem is that the people in control ARE the middle class, who are the ones who benefit most from gentrification. This is what happens with control. It reminds me of Plato’s republic. Plato, at the top, is the upper middle class, who seeks to control the lower class with his ability to manipulate their way of thinking, in the same way that developers claim they are “revitalizing” a neighborhood.
Can you have rapid development without displacement? To avoid displacement, how organic does the process of development have to be? Can you have development without an outside force… can the people do it on their own?