Monday, October 19, 2009

The New Producers

For this week's reading, I found the positive outlook of Yochai Benkler quite refreshing. He examines the ways that new communication technologies promote increased freedom in the production of media and less dependence on the market to create media. In the past 15 years, the way we organize information production has radically changed. New developments in ICTs, especially that of the internet, have brought about structural change that goes to the core of how liberal markets and liberal democracies function together. These ICT developments coupled with changes in social production practices as well as changes in economic organization have created new opportunities for how we make and exchange information, knowledge and culture. Media production by individuals and by cooperative efforts comprised of individuals and other non-market based organizations is increasing dramatically in diverse areas of production from software development to investigative reporting. Thus, individuals are now able to take more active roles in the new information environment than in the industrial economy of the last century.

The rise in influence of individuals and cooperative non-market media production threatens the historical giants of the industrial information economy, media corporations. Benkler sees the increasing number of laws and institutions being put in place to regulate media production (from copyright laws to rules for registering domain names) as the greatest danger to individuals' freedom and active, critical participation in liberal democratic society.

The outcome of these tensions between non-market media production and market-based producers will significantly affect how we as individuals learn what is going on in the world and to what extent and in what forms we will be able to affect how the world is seen.

1 comment:

  1. "Optimism" is the same word that came to my mind when I was reading Benkler today. But I wish he'd addressed ownership issues a little more, since so many of the technological tools individuals and non-market organizations use to communicate are owned by transnational corporations. That said, Benkler's outlook was definitely peppier than McChesney's, maybe because he focuses on individuals as active participants in information and culture creation/distribution, whereas McChesney seems to look at us as slack-jawed dupes, gaping at the flickering screen and whatever Rupert Murdoch flashes on it to stupify and sedate us. Have you ever read "Infinite Jest"? I've got some serious issues with David Foster Wallace in general, and that book in particular, but there's one image in it that keeps popping into my mind lately--namely, an entertainment product so captivating that everybody who watches it dies because it's so mesmerizing they neglect the rudiments of human survival. McChesney may have embraced the symbollism, but I think Beckler (and Castells and Ronfeldt and Arquilla, for that matter) give the audience a little more credit.