Miller and Slater and Benkler
Today's question: Now that we are at the end of the semester, use your experience from all of the readings in this course to put Benkler's ideas in The Wealth of Networks in play with one of the other authors we have read. For instance, compare and contrast a central argument from Benkler to Price, Innis, Howard, or any of the readings in the class. You might consider: Is the real difference between the two arguments you chose found in the choice of a research method or a set of assumptions? Or, can "the Internet" be substituted for another technology described by an earlier author in this course? (and if so, are the author's arguments still true?)
If one was looking to read about the Internet and read Miller and Slater at first they would come away with a much different picture than if they had read Benkler. On the surface, Benkler is discussing the vast potential for the Internet to make human welfare better. Miller and Slater are concerned with the inner workings of the Trini culture and how this directly relates to Trini’s Internet use. I feel these topical differences do lie on the surface. The authors of these books are seemingly interested in the same general types of questions – how is the Internet used to autonomize people? How is the Interned used to gain capital? In hindsight we can see that Miller and Slater almost paved the way for some of Benkler’s perspectives. The “nonrival” information flowing out of Trini’s homepages can be seen not only as a means of Trini identity formation, but as the beginnings of virtual communities. Frequently, these websites had guest pages, and means of group communication which could facilitate the growth of social networking. Both Miller and Slater, and Benkler are optimistic about the potential for online social networking. Although the research was done awhile ago, overall I think that the Miller and Slater book fits as a neat little example of some of the broader concepts that Benkler is discussing.