Network Theory | Networks of Power, Degrees of Freedom

Yochai Benkler


The article offers a conceptual framework for describing freedom and power in terms of human behavior in multiple overlapping systems. Power and freedom describe relations of influence and susceptibility over the principles, policies, perceptions and preferences; outcomes; and configurations available to human beings, in each case as characterized by the affordances and constraints of an agent in context of multiple overlapping systems. Networks characterize systems while keeping classes of discrete entities and relations between them explicit. Freedom and power are affected by the degree of (a) openness, the extent to which individuals can bob and weave between networks to achieve their desired behaviors, perceptions, or outcomes, and (b) completeness, the degree to which they can maneuver within a network to achieve those results; and (c) configuration, pathways for the flow of influence or its avoidance. The paper uses examples from Web-based music, video, and news reporting to explain these concepts.

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