: From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism (): Fred Turner . Journal of e-Media Studies Volume I, Issue 1, Spring Dartmouth College Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth. From Counterculture to Cyberculture Fred Turner here traces the previously untold story of a highly influential group of San Francisco Bay–area.
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Return to Book Page. From Counterculture to Cyberculture: In the early s, computers haunted the American popular imagination. Bleak tools of the cold war, they embodied the rigid organization and mechanical conformity that made the military-industrial complex possible.
But by the s—and the dawn of the Internet—computers started to represent a very different kind of cyberrculture From Counterculture to Cyberculture is the first book to explore this extraordinary and ironic transformation.
From Counterculture to Cyberculture
Fred Turner here traces the previously untold story of a highly influential group of San Francisco Bay—area entrepreneurs: Stewart Brand and the Whole Earth network. Between andvia such familiar venues as the National Book Award—winning Whole Earth Catalogthe computer conferencing system known as WELL, and, ultimately, the counherculture of the wildly successful Wired magazine, Brand and his colleagues brokered a long-running collaboration between San Francisco flower power and the emerging technological hub of Silicon Valley.
Thanks to their vision, counterculturalists and technologists alike joined together to reimagine computers as tools for personal liberation, the building of virtual and decidedly alternative communities, and the exploration of bold new social frontiers. Shedding new light on how our networked culture came to be, this fascinating book reminds us that countercultire distance between the Grateful Dead and Google, between Ken Kesey and the computer itself, is not as great as we might think.
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Lists with This Book. Mar 09, Warwick rated ffom it was ok Shelves: This is a sad story in many ways: I wonder if the author realises quite how sad it is. The story he seems to want to tell is about how the idealism and independence of the American counterculture fed into the burgeoning digital technology industry, infusing the world of early computing with radical, egalitarian ideas.
But frde actually comes across more strongly than anything is the notion that, even before it got started, Silicon Valley had been thoroughly coopted by right-wing politics and cyebrculture This is a sad story in many ways: But what actually comes across more strongly than anything is the notion that, even before it got started, Silicon Valley had been thoroughly coopted by right-wing politics and corporate interests.
His major work was the Whole Earth Catalogan odd, of-its-time publication which combined articles on self-sufficiency with mail-order listings for a range of inspirational books, DIY tools, frontiersman clothing, and assorted accoutrements. It was popular with hippies and commune-dwellers — and, because it depended on user contributions for its reviews and editorials, it also became enormously influential among those who would go on to build the new technological world.
It was an optimistic, quintessentially American as I see it idealism which was enshrined in the first online communities like The WELLin companies like Apple, and which was communicated to the world by Wired magazine — for all of whom the Internet, and digital communication generally, stood as the prototype of a newly decentralized, nonhierarchical society linked by cybfrculture bits in a single harmonious network.
Right-wingers began organising digital conferences, pallying up to the big cybrculture, and in return winning approbation and promotion from the digital community.
The result of all this was that, yes, the digital revolution was always dominated by ideas of self-sufficiency and non-regulation; but it was also always dominated by the welcoming of corporate control and by a generally white male technocratic sensibility, with all the positive and negative connotations those things imply.
It’s definitely an important story, but to be honest I felt I had to work a little too hard to make it out in this book. I was never really convinced of Stewart Brand’s central importance to the whole tale, and some chapters just seemed to devolve into lists of dates and people who worked with him on various tangentially-related projects.
I had never heard of Brand before, and perhaps if you already know about him then you don’t need to be told why he matters; I did, and I wasn’t. View all 4 comments. Dec 07, Otis Chandler marked it as to-read. That moment in the story when Newt Gingrich hoves into view, Jabba-like, and you realize the game was rigged from the start.
With people like Stewart Brand at the controls, there was That moment in the story when Newt Gingrich hoves into view, Jabba-like, and you realize the game was rigged from the start. With people like Stewart Brand at the controls, there was never any doubt that the Internet born out of ARPA was going to be anything but an entrepreneur’s playground. How was the citizens’ Internet ever anything but doomed.
Two moments hammered this home: The dice were loaded from the start, and the hackers and one of their friends were arrested months later. I suppose you could say that. I’m not going to lie; I was swept along with Wired’s mid-’90s neon cyberspace revolution hype, without realizing it was always a future run by corporations. I even thought that the breakpoint that let corporations take over the Internet was right before the first Internet bubble burst, back frwd I worked in “new media” after I graduate college in ’97, ‘ But it turns out the DNA of the Internet was planned by white male cyberuclture technocrats.
Crucial reading if you want to understand why we ended up with the Internet we got. Jul 29, Sebastian rated it really liked it. This book shed light on how the many threads of contemporary cyberculture interrelate.
From Counterculture to Cyberculture
Now I know why. Sep 23, Scott Holstad rated it it was ok Shelves: This book was a massive disappointment.
I had been wanting to read it for so long and had really been looking forward to chberculture. Boy, was I wrong. I actually almost finished it, almost made it This book was a massive disappointment. I actually almost finished it, almost made it pages through before giving up in disgust. God, this book sucks. He’s writing to his academic cronies and I guess he’s writing to impress them, but turnerr definitely not for laymen, because he takes a chronology of events, times, places, people, things, happenings, big ideas, etc, et al, and bores you to tears while also beating you over the head with redundancy until you want to bash your head into a concrete wall.
This is frankly one of the worst countercultur books I’ve ever had the misfortune to read and I have no doubt that if ANY other decent writer out there had undertaken to write a book about similar topics, they could have written an engaging, enlightening, entertaining and cool book countercultur would have captured most readers’ attentions.
Instead, this garbage kills any interest I’ve ever had in the subject and I’m almost embarrassed now to have been on such a cool and influential BBS as The WELL after Turner has turned his destructive powers of total boredom on it.
I’m giving the book two stars instead of one because the cybrculture is good, but the book is not.
Most definitely not recommended. I can’t stress that enough. Feb 19, Streator Johnson rated it really liked it. A Little to academically dry for my tastes, but an interesting book nonetheless. It basically argues that the counterculture ethos of the the ‘s had a profound affect on the libertarian formation of what has come to be called cyberspace.
Told in a historical manner with a careful agenda, it is often makes for a fascinating read. But unfortunately, it also gets so caught up in its own brilliance that one gets so frustrated they want to throw the book across the room.
Recommended mostly for mo A Little to academically dry for my tastes, but an interesting book nonetheless. Recommended mostly for modern history buffs Feb 26, Sara Watson rated it really liked it. He also accounts for the sometimes paradoxical focus on neoliberal individualism and communal openness expressed by technologists. Repetitive at times, the seams of stitched together academic papers show through from chapter to chapter. And though focused on revealing the importance of countercultufe political and cultural ideology within a network of people, Turner tells the story from the perspective of the lone genius entrepreneur.
This makes the case easy to follow, but puts a lot of the credit on key leader figures instead of the communities that are built around them. No doubt, these leaders had and continue to have operative counterculhure in countercutlure the discourse and the networks they built up, but as a structuring and narrative lens, it now feels incomplete or lopsided to focus primarily on the many published manifestoes of those voices. Jan 06, Dan rated it really liked it. If you ever listen to people with advanced degrees in English, you’ll hear things like “narrative context”, “semiotics”, dyberculture “the rhetoric of making a difference.
This book is written by a guy with an advanced degree in English, yet it is completely readable and shows how things like narrative context can lose the scare quotes and actually be important to the way our world develops. That said, you should have a strong interest in either the counterculture moveme If you ever listen to people with advanced degrees in English, you’ll hear things like “narrative context”, “semiotics”, and “the rhetoric of making a difference. That said, you should have a strong interest in either the counterculture movement of the sixties or the development of nineties cyberculture especially the Well and Wired magazine if you plan on picking up this book.
Here is an interview with the author. Oct 03, Chuck added it Shelves: This well-written, well-researched book was disappointing to me. Stewart Brand clearly forged important links between the counterculturalism of the s and the libertarian, cyber networks of our time, but Turner fails to make a case for his lasting importance or to demonstrate that our contemporary digital culture would have been significantly different if Brand had never existed. Was Brand a cause or an effect of larger social processes?
Jul 22, Kenny Cranford rated it it was ok Shelves: I really wanted this book to be better but it just wasn’t there. Author writes like a doctoral student and it was a hard book to finish. Very dry which was surprising given frm subject.
Contained some great anecdotes but overall was very repetitive. A good biography of Stewart Brand would have been much more effective. Aug 29, John Ohno rated it really liked it Shelves: A well-researched profile of Stewart Brand and his cohort, illustrating not only the nuances of the historical connection between communalist strains of the 60s counterculture and internet optimism post-cyberdelia in a more careful and accurate way than What the Dormouse Said but the incredible power of Brand’s own reputation-building and power-building techniques which have been more recently replicated by Tim O’Reilley.
Made me reconsider a lot of ideas I now realize I had uncritically swa A well-researched profile of Stewart Brand and his cohort, illustrating not only the nuances of countercilture historical connection between communalist strains of the 60s counterculture and internet optimism post-cyberdelia in a more careful and accurate cybercuture than What the Dormouse Said but the incredible power of Brand’s own reputation-building and power-building techniques which have been more recently replicated by Tim O’Reilley.
Made me reconsider a lot of ideas I now realize I had uncritically swallowed from Wired.
It gets four stars instead of five because the prose is dense, businesslike, and somewhat repetitive.