When information wanted to be free: Discursive bifurcation of information and the origins of Web 2.0

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the 1990s the aphorism “information wants to be free” reigned supreme, limiting our thinking in consequential ways. In actuality this aphorism was a fragment of a much more nuanced statement by Steward Brand, who also talked about “information wants to be expensive.” It seemed for quite a while that there was no resolution to the contradiction: information as both free and expensive. Eventually Web 2.0 resolved this contradiction by providing an architecture where information could be both free and expensive. Web 2.0 was not a product of technological advances: social media, wikis, big data platforms, and so forth. It was borne out of the understanding that free information on media platforms could yield profitable data on users. This article lays bare the discursive moves through which this understanding came about.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-48
Number of pages9
JournalInformation Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author would like to thank Anat Ben David, Shira Dvir Gvitzman, Dana Kaplan, Yoav Mehozay, and Oren Soffer for commenting on earlier drafts of the article. Special thanks go to two anonymous reviewers and the editor of The Information Society for invaluable critique. Research for this article was supported by a grant of from the Israel Science Foundation No. 292642.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Published with license by Taylor & Francis © 2018, © Eran Fisher.


  • Information capitalism
  • Web 2.0
  • internet
  • political economy
  • social media


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