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Fred Turner
From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism.
354 p., 2006

This book from the University of Chicago Press relates very much to Peter F. Drucker's observation that the 1960s were only superficially "against" technology - but actually made the computer revolution happen. Stewart Brand made a comment during one of the Stanford Buckminster Fuller sessions several years ago that someone should follow this observation up. And Fred Turner did. And he did it very thorough, full of scrutiny and scholarly wit.
In one sense the book is an intellectual biography of Stewart Brand, while one the other hand it is the thorough analysis of the emergence of an idea that influenced a whole epoch with reverberations still moving us today, a history of cultural networking, curiosity and pulling threads together from many different disciplines; Of how people learned to divide their attention between turning claypots, geodesic domes, sustainable living and computers or HP pocket calculators. Turner's arguments are clear, cogent and very convincing in that he develops them along an intellectual/political timeline, briefly branching of into musical culture, art as well as the Bay area counterculture and MIT research.
IMO the text is setting a paradigm shift, with eye opening conclusion that lets us view the past from a different vantage point, relevant for anyone interested in the history of computing, research culture, computer sciences, counterculture, Buckminster Fuller or John Cage. Had I had earlier access to this work my thesis may have taken a slightly different direction.

The book is full of interesting insights, such as that it was during the second world war that the US government funded universities which led to an explosive growth. During these years the university educated percentage of the population doubled.

p. 29: Turner writes:
'Though little read today, for instance, Lewis Mumford was among the most eloquent and popular anti-automationists. In The Myth of the Machine, he turned a cold eye on post-World War II technological research. While noting that the era had given rise to a new 'experimental mode' and to such varied technologies as nuclear energy and supersonic transportation, Mumford argued that it had also brought into being a new generation of technocrats and a new generation of technologies through which they might rule: 'With these 'megatechnics' the dominant minority will create a uniform, all-enveloping. superplanetary structure, designed for automatic operation. Instead of functioning actively as an autonomous personality, man will become passive, purposeless, machine-conditioned animal whose proper functions, as technicians now interpret man's role, will either be fed into the machine or strictly limited and controlled for the benefit of de-personalised, collective organisations.' Such visions of the social world as an automated machine found a large and passionate audience on the college campuses of the 1960s..'

last update: 4/20/02010 15:48

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