Information Clash in the Digital World

The thing I am most drawn to from the Benkler reading is the idea that in the new digital age we now find a clash between long-existing institutions and new social practices (derived from the digital era itself). This theme seems to be coming up a lot in our reading across the program and I think he brings about the best theoretical explanation to why it exists: that incumbent institutions continue to seek policies that reinforce both existing policies and their own business-models, which are based around said policies, while emerging social practices may be clashing against already set policies and arguing for at least a reevaluation of them (these policies all having to do with exclusive rights over information production).

I think Benkler would argue that exclusive rights over production of physical goods should be continued as it should lead to innovation through competition (what about when competition no longer exists). On the side of information production I think Benkler would suggest that adjustments need to be made. Since this book was published I think we have found that this clash has only become more inflamed and it could be attributed to the policy-makers refusal to do just what he suggests, be open to adjustments.

One of the best examples of this is the clash is the current state of the music industry. The incumbent institutions are constantly fighting for the exclusive rights over their product, the music, while the new social practices are finding new a different ways to get, use, and manipulate the product outside of the institutions rights. In this instance it is clear that the new social practices will not stop (file sharing in its many iterations has been curtailed in many ways, but always finds a way back to the mainstream) and therefore it seems time that the policies be adjusted.

From Benkler’s writing I can say I have a new perspective on information goods, their production, and the laws that protect them. I can’t say that all the reading has sunk in yet, but gaining the economically and political perspective on these issues definitely will enrich further discussion of them.

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