Class reflection #5

5 08 2008

Because I was unable to attend class Monday due illness, my comments are based upon two of the videos Kathy linked to for class discussion.

I first watched Benkler’s “Open Source Economics” presentation, which followed closely to the themes in The Wealth of Economics. He says (I’m paraphrasing), “Many think the information society or information economy came after industrial revolution. That’s wrong. For the past 150 years we’ve had an industrial information economy.”

I’m not sure how many people think the information economy came after the industrial revolution, but it’s been my understanding that the industrial revolution enabled the information economy because of the new ability to mass produce the written word. Certainly the information economy is expanding at an exponential rate since the advent of the digital revolution.

Benkler also said that, for the first time since the industrial revolution, information is in the hands of the public at large. Benkler provides the example of SETI@home, which is the largest super computer ever built and nearly double the size of any privately funded super computer. This represents a radical change in production and capitalization of production, Benkler says. Indeed, this is true. Looking at Wikipedia or P2P file sharing, we can see that money isn’t necesarily the motivator online that it is in capitalistic markets.

The second video I watched was Howard Rheingold’s keynote for the OhMyNews forum. Continuing the notion of information in the hands of the public at large, Howard talks to South Koreans about how the public can utilize technological enhancements in peer production and information sharing to make informed decisions and sway public policy.

Howard says every time there’s a new technology for communication, people develop literacies to interact. People dissatisfied with government are able to use new forms of media to rally and protest.

Because South Korea is a young democracy relative to the U.S., Howard believes that, with the way people are mobilizing and citizen journalism is emerging there, Korea could very well be the most advanced democracy in the world.

Howard brings up an interesting point: journalism is a key part of democracy. He suggests that citizen journalism like OhMyNews.com has the potential to outweigh traditional journalism in political influence. The only problem with the Internet and citizen journalism, according to Howard, is that anyone can publish. We don’t really have a central source besides traditinal media to determine accuracy. Today we have an immediate need for fact checking mechanisms online to make that medium successful.

Howard says South Korea has all the pieces in place to improve policy through an informed public. Considering the limited population and geography of the country, Howard is probably right.

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2 responses

18 08 2008
18 08 2008
Closing Session - “Your Choice” Books « Net-Centric Economics

[…] Paolo’s post-class response based on reviewing videos […]

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