Thursday, February 15, 2007

Counterculture/Cyberculture

I'm reading Fred Turner's From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. Must figure out a way to include this story in the California Culture class--perfect fit with the utopian theme and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which is already on the syllabus.

Brand was a Merry Prankster before launching the Whole Earth Catalog; he later played a key role in developing the WELL, the first online social network he developed in 1985 with Larry Brilliant, now the executive director at Google.org. By coincidence (?), I attended a World Affairs Council event last week honoring Brilliant (and two others), and I occasionally see Brand at my favorite diner in Sausalito. Also, my friend Mark Ettlin told me years ago about the Global Business Network, which Brand helped found and which plays a big role in Turner's story. But I didn't know how these pieces came together until I found this book. Highly recommended.

Fanatical readers of this blog will wonder: Is there a Carey McWilliams connection here? Yes, an indirect one. McWilliams commissioned the Theodore Roszak essays that eventually became The Making of a Counter Culture (1969). That influential book coined the popular neologism in Turner's title and became Roszak's signature work.

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