I’ve never considered the vast context of the information networks that abound and continue to multiply today. I’ve heard “we’re in the information age” since I can remember and yet, never really examined information networks in terms of economics, politics, and social interaction.

I was most intrigued by the social networks discussed by Benkler. He asserts that social networks are furthering our relationships yet not replacing important in-person interaction. While I agree, even today, this is true, I do argue that different types of relationships and interactions are taking place online. New networks allow us to connect quickly and broadly. They also can flood us with numerous connections and allow us to engage in fleeting connections. Yes, it’s great we can more easily connect, but is the quality of these connections being weakened?

As Benkler defends social connections online, I can’t help but wonder if online social networks have allowed us to become passive in our connections. Have networks allowed us to become social lurkers? With so many connections taking place online, have we become lax in learning acceptable in-person social behavior?

In considering the example Benkler defends internet use against limited phone conversations, I can’t help but think he would be thrilled today to argue the merits of Skype. Video interaction can far exceed the connections made via telephone.

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One final thought …

One of the most powerful lines from Benkler that I believe still rings true today is this:

“Given the zero cost of existing information and the declining cost of communication and processing, human capacity becomes the primary scarce resource in the networked economy.”

Yes, it takes the human component, but it takes more than that. This is the theory. This is the critical thinking. This line is what separates wiz-kids with technical skills from true leaders in the industry. It’s the ability to see the potential of networks and peer-production on a global scale.

 

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