I conclude by arguing that Brand's entrepreneurial tactics, and the now-widespread association of computers and computer-mediated communication with the egalitarian social ideals of the counterculture, have become important features of an increasingly networked mode of living, working, and deploying social and cultural power. These new machines could perform a range of tasks that far exceeded even the complex calculations for which digital computers had first been built. Unlike many other histories that focus on the technical innovators. A more global view has been missing, and From Counterculture to Cyberculture aims to provide one. But in both cases, they were wrong: problems cannot be escaped by distance, nor does obscuring them via a technical medium qualify as a real solution. 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.
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. From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. Since the 1960s scholarly and popular accounts alike have described the counterculture in terms first expressed by its members—that is, as a culture antithetical to the technologies and social structures powering the cold-war state and its defense industries. Whole Earth editors and both went on to edit other magazines. If mainstream America had become a culture of conflict, with riots at home and war abroad, the commune world would be one of harmony.
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. This is also indicated in the issues themselves. But the consequences of the association were profound. The optimistic view as recounted in the book of the thinking in the 1990s of what the Internet could become has come face-to-face with the harsh realities of what the Internet has become. I can't stress that enough. At the same time, another Brand publication, evolved out of the original Whole Earth Supplement in 1974.
For example, the key face-to-face interactions in the 1980s and 1990s described in the book tend to occur on the West Coast, especially in the Bay Area, and others are elsewhere in the West such as New Mexico. The reality has been quite different. A good biography of Stewart Brand would have been much more effective. Turner believes information technologies were embraced for their potential to achieve personal and collective salvation - to finally deliver upon the dreams that led to the 60s back-to-the-land movement - by building new communities. The book, like many academic histories, starts out slow, but it gathers steam quickly and the last few chapters are mind-boggling. Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, Brand and other members of the network, including Kevin Kelly, Howard Rheingold, Esther Dyson, and John Perry Barlow, became some of the most-quoted spokespeople for a countercultural vision of the Internet.
Ultimately, of course, such fulfillment was not to be had. This book was a massive disappointment. By the mid-1960s, largely due to the rise of educational testing, more merit-based standards had taken hold, and students from a wider range of social backgrounds found themselves on campuses that had been off-limits to their parents. 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. Please do not fold, bend, spindle or mutilate me. In the Whole Earth Catalog era, these networks spanned the worlds of scientific research, hippie homesteading, ecology, and mainstream consumer culture.
Shedding new light on how our networked culture came to be, this fascinating book reminds us that the distance between the Grateful Dead and Google, between Ken Kesey and the computer itself, is not as great as we might think. They became communication devices and were used to prepare novels and spreadsheets, pictures and graphs. 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. A well-woven history of the '60s counterculture, as personified in Stewart Brand, and its evolution into the cyberculture that came to prominence in the 1990s with the Internet boom and, in some small part, informs the digital culture of today. Bleak tools of the cold war, they embodied the rigid organization and mechanical conformity that made the military-industrial complex possible. The E-mail message field is required.
In deciding to publish full-length articles on specific topics in natural sciences, invention, arts, etc. There is some truth to this story. He is the author of Echoes of Combat: The Vietnam War in American Memory. Turner traces the beginnings of Brand's Whole Earth Network and its successors, with Brand's message of technological liberation finding allies as varied as Kevin Kelly and Newt Gingrich. Turner argues that networking—the connection and interconnection of the tangible and the intangible —has deep roots and broad reach as a mode of thought. From Counterculture to Cyberculture invites, implicitly, a history of cyberculture for the rest of us— women, Americans of color, and people in different parts of the country and the world.
This mode of thought long preceded, yet set the stage for, the rapid growth of computer networking in the 1980s in private enclaves and 1990s in increasingly public Internet-based contexts. Although Newt Gingrich and those around him decried the hedonism of the 1960s counterculture, they shared its widespread affection for empowering technologically enabled elites, for building new businesses, and for rejecting traditional forms of governance. These intrinsic contradictions should get us to appreciate and be ready to accept that the world is always more complicated than our ideas make of it. 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. They began to imagine institutions as living organisms, social networks as webs of information, and the gathering and interpretation of information as keys to understanding not only the technical but also the natural and social worlds. .