12 May 2006

Wii + we = web

Wii is the name of the next generation video game hardware from Nintendo which is pictured above. It was introduced to great fanfare at this week's annual electronic gaming conference, E3 2006. Nintendo had been calling the forthcoming controller Revolution but a week before E3 announced the real name was Wii, pronounced "we." This name change met with a less than cheerful reception by some Nintendo fans.

The Nintendo execs explained the reasoning behind the new name, Wii. They are trying to expand their business beyond traditional gamers into the majority of people who do not currently play video games. As a parent of two children who love games, and as a gamer myself, I like the name Wii. I think Nintendo is wise to reach out to a new audience with their newfangled controllers.

I think the name "Wii" picks up a trend I have noticed in the past few weeks. I see this theme in so-called social learning blogs. "We" is also a theme in the evolution of the web.

A very smart professor has written about this is an eloquent new book.

Yochai Benkler, Professor of Law at Yale University, has written a book titled The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom . The Wealth of Networks is a comprehensive social theory of the Internet and the networked information economy. In it, Professor Benkler describes how patterns of information, knowledge, and cultural production are changing—and shows that the way information and knowledge are made available can either limit or enlarge the ways people can create and express themselves.

The answer to "what's in it for me?" does not necessarily involve the corollary question of "what's NOT in it for you?" Market-based, proprietary models (MBPMs) assume that the only way to answer the question and give an incentive to create is to take rights away from others through exclusivity by way of trademark, patent, and copyright protections. Benkler counters this assumption by pointing out the fact that education, the arts, the sciences, and theological and political discourses have thrived on the NMNP model.

Peer production changes the question from what's in it for me to the better question: "What's in it for us?" The NMNP model allows a more expansive and inclusive "we." Technology has removed the high capital investment costs and allowed this expansion of "producers." Wikipedia and its kin prove that we can create useful information and better society and each other without the exclusivity that drives the MBPM. All that it takes is a realization of the two concepts ripe within this work:

  • What's in it for me does not necessarily involve the corollary question of what's NOT in it for you, and
  • The ultimate goal is to become part of the "we," asking and answering the better question of "What's in it for us?"
Yochai Benkler's lecture was presented on April 18, 2006 at Harvard Law School, hosted by The Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

Produced by Colin Rhinesmith.

Download the MP3 (time: 41:22) ( Permalink )

We want fun and games plus the social interactions and increased communications that we call the web. So Wii plus we equals the web. At least that is how we hope it works out. In the meantime, we'll need to keep a close eye on government regulators and some corporations whose interest is more in "me" than in "we."

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