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Benkler's Anatomy of the Networked Fourth Estate

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, March 22 2011

This working draft of a new paper [pdf] by Harvard's Yochai Benkler is bopping around the Internet. It's a fascinating read on what Wikileaks reveals about the emergence of a networked modern press. Benkler argues that Wikileaks "forces us to ask how comfortable we are with the actual shape of democratization created by the Internet." But where things really get cooking is where Benkler, who comes across as largely sympathetic to Julian Assange and Wikileaks, touches on the idea that how the public responds is a particularly compelling force. "The people formerly known as the audience" is an old meme, but this is a little different: this Wikileaks business has focused attention on the idea that how non-state, non-press actors react will help to determine whether the convergence of 'old' and 'new' media will ultimately benefit the public. We saw that with the change of heart at Tableau, Amazon's reaction of Joe Lieberman's call, and Anonymous' targeting of Mastercard and others.

Case in point: Assange annotated Benkler's paper.