In the TED Talk The New Open Source Economics, Yochai Benkler, Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard, contrasts earlier economic models with the economic model emerging in this era of collaborative production. In previous eras, the capital required to produce goods created a division between producers and consumers. Benkler argues that this model is outdated in today's information society, in which most members of society possess the basic capital needed to be a producer: a connected computer. He offers examples of amateurs who analyze NASA images, open source programmers, and Wikipedia editors, all of whom contribute their time and skills for a variety of rewards - all of which are non-monetary. Benkler argues that this kind of collaborative production - which involves decentralized networks and non-monetary reward - occupies a new economic niche.
Benkler points out that this is the first time in history that work for non-monetary reward is having a major economic impact, as seen in the recording, software, and communication industries. He raises the concern that this new model is threatening to corporations which rely on existing economic models, and that those threatened will seek means to restrict the tools of collaborative production. Benkler's prediction can be seen borne out to some degree in the efforts to pass the SOPA and PIPA bills in the US. Participatory media sites Wikipedia and Reddit were among those who played a pivotal role in having the bills halted in Congress (Mail Online, 2012). This suggests to me that the new economic model Benkler describes has reached critical mass: participatory media are now so valued that society recognizes the need to protect the tools of collaborative production.
Benkler, Y. (2008). Yochai Benkler: The New Open Source Economics.[Video file]. Retrieved from: http://www.ted.com/talks/yochai_benkler_on_the_new_open_source_economics.html
Mail Online. (2012). Wikipedia protest hits home: U.S. senators withdraw support for anti-piracy bills as 4.5 million sign petition. Mail Online. Retrieved from: