Book Review: Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks

Yochai Benkler explores how the human collective is more powerful than self interest in his book, “The Wealth of Networks, How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom.”

The_Wealth_of_Networks_Book_cover

The Wealth of Networks, by Yochai Benkler, is a book about how we can come together via the internet and social networks, invest a small amount of time and create something large and great. Wikipedia is referenced throughout the book and it is the perfect example of how the internet has allowed us to come together to create great things.

“The removal of the physical constraints on effective information production has made human creativity and the economics of information itself the core structuring facts in the new networked information economy” (Location 107 of 69954, Kindle edition).

I enjoyed this book because it puts into words all that is currently happening in the age of social media and what is to come. We will continue to create as a group of individuals on a network, opposed to operating solely for self-interest. The book was strongest when speaking of how, as a collective, we can do great things, like the various points on Wikipedia.

Benkler’s book was interesting, but difficult to read. The book was weak throughout because it was very difficult to read and understand. With the use of uncommon words and lengthy sentences, it’s easy for the audience to get lost in the words, opposed to the message of the book.

For example, in the chapter, The Internet As A Platform For Human Connection, Benkler was explaining how communication is a result of the social relationships that we have and how technology plays a role in how we communicate.

Benkler went on to say:

Technological determinism is not required to accept this. Some aspects of the difference are purely technical. Script allows text and more or less crude images to be transmitted at a distance, but not voice, touch, smell, or taste. To the extent that there are human emotions, modes of submission and exertion of authority, irony, love or affection, or information that is easily encoded and conveyed in face-to-face communications but not in script, script-based communications are a poor substitute for presence (Location 5008 of 6954, Kindle edition).

This passage, like most of the book, is very repetitive and too wordy. Books should be easy to read and understand, in order for the author to get his point across. The book was neither.

The Independent Review took on Benkler’s book and provided a review.

Also, Lynne Kiesling reviewed the book on the blog, Knowledge Problem.

Yochai Benkler, “The Wealth of Networks, How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom.”

New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2006.

Kindle Edition, $8.99, Amazon.com

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