As my friend Siva Vaidhyanathan did before me, I wrote a review of Benkler’s (relatively) new book, which can be downloaded here. In fact, I mention Siva’s review in my review, so feel free to offer your review of my review of his review in the comments. Here’s the abstract of my review:
“The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom” by Yochai Benkler is a book well worth reading, but Benkler still has a bit more work to do before his Grand Unifying Theory of Life, The Internet, and Everything is satisfactorily complete. It isn’t enough to concede that the Internet won’t benefit everyone. He needs to more thoroughly consider the ways in which the lives of poor people actually worsen when previously accessible information, goods and services are rendered less convenient or completely unattainable by their migration online.
Additionally, the Internet is easy enough to be optimistic enough as a technological achievement, but just as nuclear fission can be harnessed both for electrical power generation and annihilating destruction, the raw communicative capabilities can’t be qualitatively assessed without reference to specific content. Pornography and its symbiotic relationship to the Internet require thoughtful scrutiny. Astroturf and other targeted attempts to instrumentally distort democratic discourse need to be analyzed and possibly also rechanneled or contained. The impact of moving resources online upon people who substantially live in an offline, analog world, needs to be contemplated more fully.
Picture of book cover taken from Amazon.com, which ostentatiously claims trademark rights in the phrase “Search Inside!” Instead of buying the book from Amazon, send Benkler a few dollars (or at least a nice thank-you note, especially if you are Southern) and download it at no cost here in pdf format.