From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism Paperback – 15 Sep 2006
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"Brand''s trajectory from arty 60s mayhem to the halls of Congress reflects, Turner argues, a realisation that ''the natural world and the social world really "were" all one system of information exchange.''"
"Turner convincingly portrays a cadre of journalists who strove to transform the idea of the computer from a threat during the Cold War into a means of achieving personal freedom in an emerging digital uptopia."
"Chapter by chapter, Fred Turner shows inventively and with a deep knowledge of the whole scene how cold war technology met hippie communalism to produce the "Whole Earth Catalog," WELL, "Wired," and everything that followed. This book is a tour de force of historical digging, sociological analysis, and full understanding."
"In Turner''s meticulously detailed . . . book, he postulates that Brand was an idealistic (albeit Barnum-esque) leader of a merry band of cybernetic pranksters who framed the concept of computers and the Internet with a seemingly nonintuitive twist: These one-time engines of government and big business had transmogrified into a social force associated with egalitarianism, personal empowerment, and the nurturing cocoon of community."
"Turner''s fascinating "From Counterculture to Cyberculture" gives us a detailed look at one slice through this marvelous story. Unlike many other histories that focus on the technical innovators . . . this account focuses on a key player whose role was making the counterculture-cyberculture connection: Stewart Brand. . . . There are a myriad of fascinating little historical details that [Turner] dug up that will surprise and enlighten even the key players in the drama."
"With its countercurrents and nuances, [the book] recalls works of the highest standard that also address technology''s interactions with national culture: David E. Nye''s "American Technological Sublime" (1994) comes to mind, as does Norman Mailer''s ''Of a Fire on the Moon'' (1971). . . . One of the many strengths . . . is that [the book] articulates the sociological forces that created this revolution in our time. Twenty-nine dollars will never buy you more book than this."
"Fred Turner's richly detailed history of how the alliance between the counterculture and "digirati" was formed is a fascinating story demonstrating that the computer's metaphoric implications are never simply the result of the technology itself. Engrossing, deeply researched, and rich with implications, "From Counterculture to Cyberculture" is highly recommended for anyone interested in how technological objects attain meaning within social and historical contexts."--N. Katherine Hayles
"Turner''s enjoyable deep cultural history traces the roots of 1990s techno-utopianism in the acid tests and communes of the 1960s." -- Steven Poole "Guardian" (08/23/2008)
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Top Customer Reviews
The story is book-ended by two important publications - Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Kevin Kelly's Wired magazine.
In the former, set in San Francisco in the mid 'sixties, Brand joined Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters in their search for the alternative consciousness and sense of community provided by LSD and a variety of mind altering chemical and technological stimulants.
In the latter, the action moves out to the Bay Area and we see Brand, Kelly and the electro-hippies seeking their own escape from the hierarchies of control in what they saw as the coming digital utopia.
In between, Turner displays a masterful command of the popular culture and technological landscape that Brand so nimbly traversed. In one of the many excellent reviews this book receives on Amazon.com, someone describes Brand as 'Zelig-like'. Yet, in the Woody Allen movie, Zelig was an incidental observer at landmark events. Brand, however, was aways a major player - absorbing new ideas, seeking and making connections where none appeared to exist and, most importantly, making things happen.
From Kesey's bus to organising the Trips Festival that kicked off San Francisco's Summer of Love; from the breakthrough demonstration of the moveable mouse interface to the launch of The Whole Earth Catalog (which Steve Jobs described as the offline www); from WELL, the first real working computer network to the launch of Wired, Brand was at the very centre of events that have shaped our world.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I'll add here one micro-correction that I gather Turner plans to fix in the paperback edition. In the early 1960s I was not a draftee in the Army, but an officer on two years active duty in the Infantry. If I at times took a leadership role later on, I was just deploying what I'd been trained to do.
The guy in the subtitle CAN'T give a book 5 stars--- it's impertinent. Hence my 4 stars.
Mr. Turner contends that the U.S. scientific/military/academic complex of the 1940s-1960s fostered radically new, collaborative work structures characterized by collegiality and the free sharing of information. While the New Left was repelled by this system and what it regarded to be its instruments of empire, Mr. Turner demonstrates that Cold War technology held great appeal to many of the New Communards of the 1960s, who had withdrawn from the political in order develop consciousness within music, drugs and alternative living arrangements. To key persons within the New Communard movement, it was felt that technology could play a key role in the task of empowering individuals to transform themselves and their world.
In particular, Mr. Turner focuses on the remarkable career of Stewart Brand to tell his story. Mr. Turner discusses how Brand personified the anxieties and aspirations of his generation but importantly, recognized the value of collaboration as a key life strategy and aimed to repurpose technology for the benefit of society. Mr. Turner follows Brand through the various phases of his life, including stints as a member of the LSD-dropping Merry Pranksters, an enterpreneur who published the Whole Earth Catalog, independent writer, organizer of computer conferences, developer of the WELL bulletin board/email system, and tech industry consultant to demonstrate how the personal and professional networks that Brand had a part in building have profoundly impacted our attitudes and perceptions about computing technology. Specifically, Mr. Turner argues that the notion of personal computing as a tool for achieving liberation and the Internet as a platform for constructing egalitarian communities were rooted in the countercultural values that Brand, and others within his circle, embraced.
Mr. Turner goes on to discuss how the so-called New Economy of the 1990s reveled in the libertarian rhetoric that echoed the apolitical logic of the New Communards, who had returned from the failed communes of the 1970s to seek redemption within corporate America through the construction of an immaterial economy of seemingly endless possibility. Assessing the limitations of ideology to achieve lasting reform both then and now, Mr. Turner suggests that the cyberculturalist task of building a truly egalitarian society will remain problematic as long as its members remain alienated from the material world.
I give this brilliant and thoroughly engrossing work the highest possible rating and recommend it to everyone.
It may devolve into `professor-speak' at times but it is well worth it. If you want to know about one of the critical components of both the `counter culture' of the 60's and the internet revolution of the 90's this is a must read.
In this informed, detailed, and extremely well- written survey of the career of Brand, Fred Turner also provides a insightful and exciting look at America 's cultural, and especially 'alternative culture ' development from the sixties through the nineties. Brand meets up on his travels with 'Edge's' John Brockman, with Ken Kesey with whom he is a Merry Prankster, with Bucky Fuller who tries to help his projects,with Kevin Kelly of the 'Wired' world, with many of those seeking new ways of making the Technology connect with communal frameworks that will enable ( at least this is one of Brand's goals) the individual to truly be an individual .
Brand's most famous contribution 'The Whole Earth Catalogue' which was certainly one of the major cultural influences upon the Environmental Movement, and incidentally the Hippy Culture of the Sixties , told us the way we could get anything we needed to make our way into the rapidly changing future. Brand's work as editor and thinker also contributed to the World Wide Web to come, and the name and concept 'personal computer' is also one of his contributions.
This is an important work to read not only to learn about decisive moments in the life of a remarkable individual, but to better understand the world- in- the -making we are a part of.
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