In "The Wealth of Networks," Benkler argues that the rise of open and decentralized modes of production, distribution, and communication enabled by ICTs has created a new "networked information economy" that challenges traditional notions of property, markets, and power. He suggests that this networked economy is characterized by three key features: (1) the abundance of information goods, which can be produced and distributed at near-zero marginal cost; (2) the decentralized and participatory nature of production and distribution, which enables individuals and groups to collaborate and innovate without the need for centralized control; and (3) the emergence of new forms of social and cultural production, which challenge traditional media and cultural industries and enable more diverse and democratic forms of expression.
Benkler argues that this networked information economy has important implications for social and political life, as it enables new forms of collective action and political mobilization, challenges established power structures and hierarchies, and fosters more participatory and democratic forms of governance. However, he also acknowledges that the networked information economy is not without its challenges and risks, including the potential for new forms of inequality and exclusion, the erosion of privacy and autonomy, and the concentration of power and control in the hands of a few dominant platforms and actors.
In the context of online communities, "The Wealth of Networks" highlights the potential for ICTs to enable more decentralized and participatory forms of knowledge and cultural production, as well as more democratic forms of governance and decision-making. Online communities can facilitate the production and sharing of knowledge, culture, and political power in ways that challenge traditional media and cultural industries, enabling greater diversity and accessibility. However, online communities also face challenges around issues of control, privacy, and exclusion, as well as the potential for the concentration of power and influence in the hands of a few dominant actors. Benkler's work underscores the importance of recognizing and addressing these challenges in order to realize the full potential of the networked information economy for online communities and society as a whole.