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Wealth of Networks
It is said that the Western culture is going through some sort of cultural war in terms of communication and technology (Braman 153-182). The battlegrounds are seen in the courts, the legislatures, international bodies, local communities, and distant countries that individually may not have much power to affect the outcome though they do have a vital interest in who wins. The war is global -- and is one that has little to do with gay marriage, abortion, terrorism, Darwinism, or religion. It is, in one sense, a war going on above our heads, as it is largely concerned with law and policy, and society and property; this is all in connection to the new media and technology (Doyle). In another sense, it is very much a war in the trenches, as it affects our ability to choose how we will live and interact with each other as consumers, creators, and citizens.
Media policymaking has been said to navigate an increasingly complex technological environment, with new media technologies not only introducing new forms and sources of content into the media mix, but also providing new mechanisms for the delivery of traditional media content (Braman 153-182). McQuail devoted an entire chapter to this in his book Mass Communication Theory, where he believes that the new media reformations call for a new theory on mass communication. In such an environment, effectively defining media markets becomes increasingly difficult, as does maintaining an accurate sense of the roles and functions of the different media in the lives of the citizenry, therefore the need for new theories, along with this, new policies. This was also discussed in Benkler's book, The Wealth of Networks where he believes that policymakers must come to grips with how the migration to increasingly interactive media platforms, and the associated increased prominence of user-generated content might impact policy approaches to media. To the extent that we are witnessing technology-driven "de-institutionalization" of the media, the question arises as to how this process should be reflected in media policies, which traditionally have been directed at large-scale media institutions and traditionally have been formulated with such institutions in mind, as Benkler believes.
These increased analytical challenges facing policymakers (and policy researchers) are accompanied by changing dynamics regarding the placement of the burden of proof in the assessment of individual policies, these individual policies are to be reviewed and re-thought with the dynamics of how media is quickly changing in because of new found technologies (Doyle). That is, individual policies are coming under increased scrutiny by policymakers, stakeholder groups, and the courts, in terms of the extent to which they legitimately achieve the objectives that motivated their introduction, where culture is being influenced more by media, rather than the other way around, also discussed by McQuail. No longer is much deference granted to the predictive judgments of policy professionals. Rather, contemporary media policymaking involves increasingly ambitious efforts to systematically assess the impact of individual policies, as well as to test the underlying assumptions upon which individual policies may be based (Hetsroni 439-451). This coincides with McQuail's theory on the new policy paradigm, where there are three paradigmatic phases of communication and media which was seen in the Western culture (van Cuilenburg and McQuail 181-207).
Such developments, of course, point to an increasingly influential role for research in the media policymaking arena -- particularly in relation to the stakeholder battles -- for example, between industry groups and public interest/advocacy organization - that remain a prominent component of media policymaking (Entman and Wildman 5-19). But such developments also raise the question of whether the full range of policy impacts always will be discernible by available empirical methods, and if not, do policies reflecting values that perhaps should be considered self-evidence potentially suffer in the face of increasingly evidence-based policymaking? The implications of such questions become magnified in the face of contemporary dynamics involving the role of research in policymaking that suggest that a fairly narrow spectrum of research perspectives contribute to policymaking and that resource imbalances among the various stakeholder groups can further skew the nature of the research that ultimately impacts policy decision-making. This in turn affects the communications and media as an economy, which is said to be the baseline for Benkler's book.
Yochai Benkler, who reports this and other stories in his erudite and expansive book The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedoms; this is where he says we are in "a battle, in the domain of law and policy, over the shape of the social settlement that will emerge around the digital computation and communications revolution." What do stakeholders, politics and voting machines have to do with computers and communication? As Benkler believes, they are part of a new economy -- a networked economy -- centered around information and structured by rules of ownership for intellectual outputs (McChesney). The question is whether this economy will be mostly proprietary and tightly controlled by corporate interests or if it will give meaningful space to non-market social production? The answer to that question has significant implications for individual freedom, the public sphere, and the shape of our future economy (Fallery, Ologeanu-Taddei, and Gerbaix 37-53). Which McQuail refers to as the new media, where there are general consequences for the traditional mass media. The new media is making it possible for people to access media and communication for personal use as communication devices, also how there are needs for it in the government as well as the economy.
The sections in Benkler's book are generally divided into two different aspects, the industrial information economy -- a one-way, capital-intensive, and professionally-produced model that has held sway for 150 years -- and the networked information economy (NIE) -- a many-tomany, low-capital, and cooperative model that has been emerging in the last 15 years. Newspapers, record companies, and broadcasters are members of the former; bloggers, file sharers, and decentralized programmers and encyclopedia writers are members of the latter. The infrastructure that the NIE shares is, of course, the internet, which Benkler describes as "a communications environment built on cheap processors with high computational capabilities, interconnected in a pervasive network." This environment is characterized by (1) non-proprietary strategies, (2) rising non-market production, and (3) more effective, large-scale cooperative efforts; in other words, "peer production of information, knowledge, and culture." Benkler identifies the third feature as the most revolutionary because it challenges both our economics and our politics (Entman and Wildman 5-19). McQuail also has three general principles for mass communication and media which he mentions to be: "The three primary objectives: to update and take account of recent theory and research; enlargement, to reflect the continuing expansion of the field; clarification and improved presentation."
Benkler sees peer production as an inversion of the conditions Ronald Coase explored in his investigation of the relationship between the market and the firm in his publication, The Nature of the Firm. Coase pointed out that firms, while they compete against other firms according to the rules of the market, are not themselves organized according to market principles. Markets are organized largely by the price system (Entman and Wildman 5-19). Producers flock to high prices, consumers to low prices. Inside the firm, however, production and consumption are organized by managerial fiat. Workers have significantly less freedom within the firm to contract for their services than the firm has within the market to contract for its products or expertise (Fallery, Ologeanu-Taddei, and Gerbaix 37-53). Coase argues that firms exist because certain transactions are easier and cheaper to organize within a command hierarchy than within a market. A firm will grow so long as its management can rearrange "the factors of production under its control" to outweigh the benefit of trading those factors on the open market.
Benkler, in an argument developed in "Coase's Penguin, or, Linux and The Nature of the Firm," says that markets and firms are two different ways of solving the problem of information: how does one identify the best person for the job? Markets depend on price signals; firms depend on managerial discretion. Under a third option -- one he calls "commons-based peer production" -- the best individuals, working on a neutral network, self-identify and self-select for a given project. This option works best for projects with high levels of "granularity;" that is, projects which can be broken down into many small component parts, such as classifying craters on Mars - NASA Clickworkers, writing encyclopedias -- Wikipedia - and even building online worlds - Second Life, a massive multi-player online game (Hetsroni 439-451). Peer production has a big advantage over markets and firms: transaction costs are reduced essentially to zero (achieving ideal efficiency) so long as the group is large enough to aggregate resources and conduct peer review, and so long as each person has equal access to an informational network. McQuail believed in his theories that as the television industry increases, market controls replace political policies, along with this the new media affects the…[continue]
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