Whether or not you fully agree with the chosen terminology and accompanying ideology, we felt Kevin Kelly’s recent piece in Wired that examines the history and growth of what he calls online “socialism” takes an insightful look at the ways people are interacting in the digital realm. Kelly tracks the movement as it shifts from passive sharing information towards more active collaboration, a trend that is enabling greater innovation through decentralized forms of production. Examples of this include opensource efforts like Wikipedia and Boxee. He views this as a hybrid system that lands somewhere between a non-market and free market economy, simultaneously benefitting the individual and the group:
Rather than viewing technological socialism as one side of a zero-sum trade-off between free-market individualism and centralized authority, it can be seen as a cultural OS that elevates both the individual and the group at once. The largely unarticulated but intuitively understood goal of communitarian technology is this: to maximize both individual autonomy and the power of people working together. Thus, digital socialism can be viewed as a third way that renders irrelevant the old debates.
In the end, Kelly wonders if the deeper implications of these engagements might be found in their ability to effect our offline lives, as we increasingly witness the powerful results we’re able to achieve in this manner.
At nearly every turn, the power of sharing, cooperation, collaboration, openness, free pricing, and transparency has proven to be more practical than we capitalists thought possible. Each time we try it, we find that the power of the new socialism is bigger than we imagined.
[image via Digital Image Magazine]