Film and Media, History, Reviews

Review: Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture

jacket image
The reviews keep coming for From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism by Fred Turner; a consensus is developing that Turner has articulated an important new understanding of the relationship between the aspirations of the 1960s counterculture and the utopian visions of the creators and promoters of cyberspace.
Giles Slade reviewed the book about a week ago in the Los Angeles Times:

Turner is eager to trace the complex legacy of cybernetic theory and ideology from its World War II-era birthplace (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Radiation Laboratory) through the counterculture of the 1960s to the rise of networked computing and the misleading ideology of purity that underlies contemporary views of cyberspace. … Turner describes how the back-to-the-land movement of the 1960s and early ’70s eventually turned away from the political work of community-building toward the increasingly elitist belief that small technologies would transform consciousness and that together machinery and consciousness would provide the basis of a new social order.

As Slade summarizes the book in his review, Turner traces the central role of Stewart Brand and the Whole Earth network in facilitating the transformation of counterculture into cyberculture. Between 1968 and 1998, via such familiar venues as the Whole Earth Catalog, the computer conferencing system known as WELL, and, ultimately, the launch of Wired magazine, Brand and his colleagues brokered a long-running collaboration between San Francisco flower power and the emerging technological hub of Silicon Valley.
“One of the many strengths of Turner’s From Counterculture to Cyberculture, Slade concludes, “is that it articulates the sociological forces that created this revolution in our time. Twenty-nine dollars will never buy you more book than this.”
Read the introduction and an excerpt.