Yochai Benkler

Professor of Law, Yale Law School

Participation Revolution
33 minutes, 15.3mb, recorded 2005-10-21
Yochai Benkler
The networked economy is transforming the way we capitalize business and culture. Yochai Benkler, one of the top thinkers on commons-based approaches to managing resources, weaves together several fascinating threads to argue that decentralization and collaboration are shifting the balance of power to the people in the production of knowledge, goods and services. As new motivational structures and behaviors evolve, an economy in which resources are not owned and outputs are shared is becoming a revolutionary source of new value.

The SETI@home project is one familiar example of a distributed network of volunteers sharing extra cycles to accomplish a common goal. Surprisingly, the combined processing power of SETI also represents the fastest supercomputer we have today. Benkler expands on this paradigm to explore how millions of connected humans now form an abundant, distributed network of processing, bandwidth, storage and brain power that can be combined for common purposes in a 'decentralized, non-market' model. Peer production is bringing many tasks that used to live on the periphery into the core of advanced economies. NASA image mapping, Apache, Wikipedia, Skype and other open, peer-to-peer examples show that volunteers working without the usual sense of ownership can out-perform traditional, firm-based methods.

The shift to commons based peer production can create tensions with institutions and industries built on centralized, high capitalization methods. Hollywood and the recording industries often seek to regulate in favor of incumbent business models which see the person at the end of the supply chain as a passive consumer. This relationship can be reworked when individuals band together for collective action as consumers and citizens. Benkler closes with thoughts on political activism in the blogosphere which shows another powerful way the economy of participation can organize the commons to promote transparency, justice and freedom.

This talk was from the Participation Revolution session at Pop!Tech. The other speakers in this session were Nicholas Negroponte and Bart Decrem. The question and answer period can be heard at the end of Bart Decrem's talk.

Yochai Benkler is Professor of Law at Yale Law School. His research focuses on the effects of laws that regulate information production and exchange on the distribution of control over information flows, knowledge, and culture in the digital environment.

His particular focus has been on the neglected role of commons-based approaches towards management of resources in the digitally networked environment. He has written about the economics and political theory of rules governing telecommunications infrastructure, with a special emphasis on wireless communications, rules governing private control over information, in particular intellectual property, and of relevant aspects of U.S. constitutional law. He received his J.D from Harvard Law School and his LL.B. from Tel-Aviv University.


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