5. Individual Freedom: Autonomy, Information, and Law
- 1 Summary of the chapter
- 2 Sources
- 3 Case Studies
- 4 Key Concepts
Summary of the chapter
The emergence of the networked information economy has the potential to increase individual autonomy in three ways.
First, it increases the range of things that individuals can do for and by themselves. Information networks can lift many of the material constraints and costs of the industrial information economy. Most of the tools necessary for effective action and communication are now widely available to people in networked environments.
Second, the networked information economy provides alternatives to the proprietary sources of information/communication typical in the industrial economy. The presence of these nonproprietary alternatives decreases the extent to which individuals are being acted upon by the owners of the communications facilities. The culture of passive televiewing subjected its participants to the manipulations of the communications and broadcasting companies. Although this culture lives on, it is losing its dominance in today's information environment.
Third, the internet increases the range and diversity of information available to individuals. It does so by enabling all sources-- both mainstream and fringe-- to produce information and communicate broadly. This diversity and accessibility of information radically changes the universe of options that individuals recognize as open for them to pursue. An increase in available options creates a richer basis to form critical judgments expanded opportunities for critical reflection.