FROM PLACES TO SPACES

The network economy has set into motion…

…the power of hobby tribes and informed peers. Amateurs, plugged into the net, discover comets, find fossils, and track bird migrations better than pros. By networking their interests and passing tips around, amateurs also create software in languages so new that they are taught in no classrooms. These self-organized communities, unleashed from their obscurity by the net, are the new authorities.

Silent movie buffs and meteorite collectors are quickly gathering on the net because the net’s space coheres them into a middle market, served at last by business and sales aimed directly at them. Egyptologists or cancer patients can create a mid-sized agora (neither insignificant nor huge) for ideas and knowledge. There was no place in mass markets for the niche communities of ethnic tribes or Klingon speakers, but the network economy constructs a space for them.

But mass broadcast TV and big print publishing are not going away. The chief advantage of peerage networks–that information flows in ripples through a web of equal nodesis also the chief weakness of networks. Information can only advance by indirect osmosis, passing along like gossip. The web becomes a thicket of obstacles preventing simultaneous dissemination to all parts.

 

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This is a blog version of a book of mine first published in 1998. I am re-issuing it (two posts per week) unaltered on its 10th anniversary. Comments welcomed. More details here.
-- KK