Benkler’s Wealth of Networks Technology Creates Feasibility Spaces for Social Practice

This is my third post on my reading of Professor Yochai Benkler’s Wealth of Networks.

Quote from page 31…

"…Technology creates feasibility spaces for social practice…"

I am enamored of Benkler’s choice of the word "feasibility". It implies what is possible, not what is certain and this is certainly a central theme of the book. Just because the web allows for new ways to do things – different approaches to education, example, does not mean that they are going to happen. At CALI, we are constantly exploring the feasible as new ideas and technologies become available or more widely available.

While working for Chicago-Kent in the early ’90s, we developed electronic casebooks using Folio Views, but sustaining that project was not feasible because it required laborious conversion from the paper book and difficult-to-obtain permission from the print casebook publishers. We could only experiment with electronic casebooks if every student purchased the paper work. We could not change, update, mix or add to the electronic version. We could not share our products with other law schools either. The net doesn’t solve the permission problem, but if that could be dealt with, the adding, updating, mixing and sharing problems are made feasible by the web.

… and further on page 32..

"… we can harness many more of the diverse paths and mechanisms for cultural transmission that were muted by the economies of scale that led to the rise of the concentrated, controlled form of mass media, whether commercial or state-run… "

Once you have a mechnism in place for adding, updating, mixing and sharing, new paths of production and new products become possible. The casebook in not inviolate. It is a collection of edited and commented material. It is almost entirely text and a good portion of it is public domain.

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