September 25, 2006

"Cyberculture was to be the fulfillment of counterculture."

Edward Rothstein writes about Fred Turner's book “From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism":
Ultimately, of course, such fulfillment was not to be had. But the consequences of the association were profound. One reason for the heady pace of innovation during the 90’s is that the motivation was never purely abstract, but was often accompanied by utopian passions. Software development occurred not just in the private realm, but also among collaborative communities that objected to corporate ownership. Even today’s Wikipedia — the online encyclopedia continuously being written by its users — can be traced to these ideas....

[S]o messianic were expectations, that many failed to see that cyberspace was not really a different realm from the hard-wired world of ordinary experience....
No, no, don't say it. I'm still trying to find counterculture fulfillment!


David said...

Somehow I have never been able to visualize an Apple laptop in a volkswagen bus sitting in front of the local stop-and-rob, pirating a "HOTSPOT" wifi connection.

It is difficult to 'rage at the machine' through a machine! These folks would never get passed the screen saver!

OOOOHHHH! Look at the colors! I have the munchies!

Editor Theorist said...

I bought an old Whole Earth Catalog just last year. It was fascinating and impressive - partly because of the mixture of eerie prescience and amusingly dated hippie-isms.

But I think we (especially columnists and reviewers in the highbrow media) are still inclined to underestimate cyberculture.

Partly because we get-used to things really fast, and partly because the effects are still working themselves through.

PatCA said...

It's still possible to find fulfillment in cyberculture; after all, it's an open space, like a speaker's corner, quite utopian really, and if you have something interesting to say, people will listen.

Business-wise, though, I'd say it's as revolutionary as a strip mall. Lots of little storefronts with flashing neon signs, luring in the customers. If you don't have the goods, they won't stay, or pay.

Maxine Weiss said...

"...and if you have something interesting to say, people will listen."---Patca

But not at the same time.

Remember when we all could have a universal experience, all at the same moment?

You felt at one with the Universe.

When everyone's all scattered in different directions, and TiVo-ing everything....for when they get around to it....

Inevitably, we all aren't on the same page anymore.

To say nothing of the lack of imagination.

When someone's ideas and creativity are "digitally enhanced" you don't have to try as hard. Which is why everything is bland and derivative nowadays.

No unique-ness, originality, or distinctive experiences---all occurring at the very same moment.

I miss the old days.

Peace, Maxine

Revenant said...

Ok, I give up -- was Maxine's post a joke or was it intended to be serious? For example, following up a complaint that "we all aren't on the same page anymore" with a complaint that there is "no unique-ness, originality, or distinctive experiences"? Is the way that doesn't make any sense at all deliberate or accidental?

I don't know if it has affected my imagination and "uniqueness", but cyberculture has definitely eroded my ability to distinguish between sincerely-held silly ideas and deliberate sarcasm. :)

HaloJonesFan said...

Part of the issue is that counterculture depends on being just what it says--counter to culture. If you have a culture to which you belong, then you can't really be a counterculture anymore--you're just a different sort of culture. And the internet makes it possible for all sorts of loners to start to communicate, and discover things that they have in common. You aren't the only person in the world with a pierced nipple anymore...which is nice because you aren't lonely anymore, but it's also not so great because now you aren't a Beautiful&UniqueSnowflake.

Dean said...

The University of Chicago Press website has two excerpts from Fred Turner's From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. You can read the introduction and an excerpt about the Whole Earth Catalog and the emerging digital culture.

Maxine Weiss said...

Isn't it about time we all face up to the fact that technology just isn't sexy !!!

Peace, Maxine

amba said...

Well, I just had what I think are some modestly utopian experiences -- thoroughly mixed with ol' real-world commerce -- shopping on Craigslist and eBay.

Where else could you get a red dresser, a green desk, and a Magic Bus for about $2000?