We can describe and measure the degree of power of a given individual or other actor, a node, in a network as the extent to which that node can influence the probability for another node that that other node will behave, obtain outcomes, or inhabit configurations that are consistent with the perceptions, preferences, principles or policies of the power-exercising node. We can describe freedom in a network as the extent to which individuals or other entities in a given network can influence their own behaviors, configurations, or outcomes (exercise freedom) and can be immune to the efforts of others in the network to constrain them (be subject to their power). Both freedom and power are affected by whether it is feasible for either actor to shift from one set of networks to another. Characterizing these factors should allow us to determine whether the fact that a network has changed, or that different kinds of people or entities inhabit different types of networks, will increase or decrease freedom, and increase, decrease, or reallocate power in a social system characterized by a given new set of networks.
Yochai Benkler is a Professor of Law at Harvard University.