The change brought about by the networked information environment is deep. It is structural. It goes to the very foundation of how liberal markets and liberal democracies have coevolved for almost two centuries. (Yochai Benkler)
Every year, 167 books per million people are published worldwide. Many of these talk about how Internet and digital technologies are changing society. One of these books is being considered a milestone to understand the social and economic effects of computer-based, decentralized, user-driven production and innovation. I’m talking about “The Wealth of Networks” by Yochai Benkler, published in 2006 after a decade of research and translated for the Italian readership before the summer ( 8 chapters are freely downloadable ).
The question at the center of the book is straightforward: what are the consequences when individual and communities become more productive than profit-seeking companies?
Social production is reshaping markets to the point that the author sees the emergence of a “networked information economy” which is radically decentralized, peer-to-peer, and based on non-market incentives.
Borrowing his perspective, the assumption that without payment there is no incentive to produce may no longer be the rule, thus a understanding what the dynamics of production and sharing are inside communities is the way for companies to entertain dialogs with users and become serious about serving the long tail of consumer demand.
It’s not only about producing new content (UGC). It’s also about creating new services and products starting from community-woven conversations. The concept of “consumer” has become way too mono-dimensional in the networked society. Individuals are becoming multidimensional, by moving into environments where they can be buyers but also sellers, users but also producers, readers but also writers…
Opening a two-way (community-brand) flow of communication is the starting point to benefit from all the value brought by the network. Brands should engage more in opening up authentic conversations, in
order to create reputation and trust, instead of either remaining passive witnesses of this phenomenon or goofily entering the world of social networks.