Thoughts on the Introduction to The Wealth of Networks

In the introduction to Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks, he discusses how the Internet has created unprecedented ways for individuals and grassroots organizations to reach a wide network of others. Previously, this was a privilege afforded only to companies with both the latest in communication technologiesl and large amounts of capital, but now it can be accomplished by anyone with a smartphone.

In the 10 years which have passed since the writing of this book, Benkler’s assertions remain true, yet I can’t help but feel that we have moved into the next phase of mass communications, where companies are fully cognizant of the power of the individual and are actively seeking new ways to exploit this. It seems that we will need to come to terms with the fact that extreme awareness about where we are getting our information from is a requirement, lest we unwittingly serve the interests of entities with a lot to gain by public complicity.

This subject is especially pertinent right now in light of stories exposing the consequences that the glut of false “news” stories being circulated far and wide among users on Facebook. People are convinced they’re educating themselves on the facts, but in reality they are being fed news from completely fabricated sources. Just as bad, when people are content that they have all information they need from merely reading a headline.

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