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From Counterculture to Cyberculture

3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  267 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
In the early 1960s, computers haunted the American popular imagination. Bleak tools of the cold war, they embodied the rigid organization and mechanical conformity that made the military-industrial complex possible. But by the 1990s-and the dawn of the Internet-computers started to represent a very different kind of world: a collaborative and digital utopia modeled on the ...more
Unknown Binding, 339 pages
Published October 15th 2010 by Not Avail (first published January 1st 2006)
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This is a sad story in many ways: I wonder if the author realises quite how sad it is. The story he seems to want to tell is about how the idealism and independence of the American counterculture fed into the burgeoning digital technology industry, infusing the world of early computing with radical, egalitarian ideas. But what actually comes across more strongly than anything is the notion that, even before it got started, Silicon Valley had been thoroughly coopted by right-wing politics and cor ...more
Jul 29, 2013 Sebastian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book shed light on how the many threads of contemporary cyberculture interrelate. It's no accident that there is a loose affinity between the EFF, Wired, and Burning Man. Now I know why.
Streator Johnson
Mar 01, 2014 Streator Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Little to academically dry for my tastes, but an interesting book nonetheless. It basically argues that the counterculture ethos of the the 1960's had a profound affect on the libertarian formation of what has come to be called cyberspace. Told in a historical manner with a careful agenda, it is often makes for a fascinating read. But unfortunately, it also gets so caught up in its own brilliance that one gets so frustrated they want to throw the book across the room. Recommended mostly for mo ...more
Sara Watson
Feb 26, 2016 Sara Watson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Turner presents a clear articulation of the rhetorical and ideological history of Silicon Valley, drawing a direct line of influence from counterculture communalism all the way through to = utopian visions of the early internet’s potential for social empowerment and connection at small and intimate scales. He also accounts for the sometimes paradoxical focus on neoliberal individualism and communal openness expressed by technologists. As such, Turner’s work holds up as useful primer for unpackin ...more
Scott Holstad
This book was a massive disappointment. I had been wanting to read it for so long and had really been looking forward to it. I had heard about the Whole Earth Catalog and Whole Earth Review and their respective influences for years, and I had been on The WELL for over a decade myself ( and thought it was the best BBS ever devised, and of course Wired Magazine was awesome, so I knew this book had to be cool as hell. Boy, was I wrong. I actually almost finished it, almost made it 300 ...more
Michael Grasso
That moment in the story when Newt Gingrich hoves into view, Jabba-like, and you realize the game was rigged from the start.

This book, while a fantastic look at how technocratic Cold War impulses were dusted with a pinch of countercultural fairy dust (mostly of the kind that heavily uses self-reliant "frontier" imagery, which is of course problematic on *so* many levels) to create the modern Internet, is as fascinating as it is sobering. With people like Stewart Brand at the controls, there was
Jan 06, 2008 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you ever listen to people with advanced degrees in English, you'll hear things like "narrative context", "semiotics", and "the rhetoric of making a difference." For the most part, it's all crap. This book is written by a guy with an advanced degree in English, yet it is completely readable and shows how things like narrative context can lose the scare quotes and actually be important to the way our world develops.

That said, you should have a strong interest in either the counterculture moveme
This well-written, well-researched book was disappointing to me. Stewart Brand clearly forged important links between the counterculturalism of the 1960s and the libertarian, cyber networks of our time, but Turner fails to make a case for his lasting importance or to demonstrate that our contemporary digital culture would have been significantly different if Brand had never existed. Was Brand a cause or an effect of larger social processes? Turner doesn’t say. Instead, he just chronicle’s Brand’ ...more
Philip Palios
Apr 30, 2016 Philip Palios rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
An excellent study of the history and relationship between the counter-culture of the 60s and 70s and the emergence of personal computing and the Internet. I don't think the history of either topic can be fully told or understood without also knowing about the other.

"From Counterculture to Cyberculture" helped me relate my own questions as a modern-day software engineer to the roots of my industry. I often ask myself what happened to the revolution depicted in the famous 1984 Apple ad? Did perso
Kenny Cranford
I really wanted this book to be better but it just wasn't there. Author writes like a doctoral student and it was a hard book to finish. Very dry which was surprising given the subject. Contained some great anecdotes but overall was very repetitive. A good biography of Stewart Brand would have been much more effective.
Eli Weinstein
Jan 02, 2014 Eli Weinstein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is history at its best. If you've ever been at all curious about the roots of modern Silicon Valley culture - its utopianism, its corporate organization, its ideals - this book will explain all that and more, in remarkably engaging prose for an academic text. Turner provides a convincing narrative for some of the strangest transformations in modern American culture: the influence of the Merry Pranksters on Newt Gingrich, the connections between cybernetics and the hippies. He retains carefu ...more
David Mayes
Apr 17, 2014 David Mayes is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
As a life-long student of communication, I somehow missed this one by Fred Turner at Stanford. I personally experienced my own transformation from countercultural grad student in San Jose, to Intel executive in Silicon Valley. This chronicle of how a great countercultural icon like Stewart Brand could morph into the father of digital utopianism, following in the footsteps of Marshall McLuhan is a fascinating trip down memory lane for me. Digital utopiansim continues to morph with the rise of the ...more
James Huffman
Jun 01, 2015 James Huffman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-woven history of the '60s counterculture, as personified in Stewart Brand, and its evolution into the cyberculture that came to prominence in the 1990s with the Internet boom and, in some small part, informs the digital culture of today.

By no means a hagiography of Brand or anyone else, Turner is quick to point out the shortcomings and failings of the movement, both in its manifestation of hippie back-to-the-land fantasies, and its co-evolution with the digital culture birthed by the rise
I initially picked this book since it discusses many events that were part of my life as well -- from the Summer of Love in SF to working for the government on classified computer projects. I always loved the Whole Earth Catalogs and didn't know exactly why. It answered many personal questions I had.

What I found most amazing about the book, however, is the naivety of otherwise intelligent and foresighted people of what the Internet was and would become. In the heady days of the Clinton Administr
Chris Langer
Somewhat difficult to read; has novel insight into the relationship between the cold war military establishment, the hippie communes and the rise of the "egalitarian" world of the PC.
May 28, 2016 Simon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I got this as I really enjoyed Stewart Brand's last book, and wanted to know more about him. What I would say about this book is that it really aimed at an academic audience. It gets into _a lot_ of detail and this makes it a very intense read.

The paperback / softback edition is _very_ dense in that it has narrow margins, line spacing and a small font. As a result, I stopped reading about half way through.

If you are a student or an academic, then you might get on with this read. If you are after
Bastian Greshake
Jan 16, 2014 Bastian Greshake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty interesting summary of how many of the household names of cyberculture got to fame and power. And most of the critique regarding journalistic ethics and libertarianism is also spot on. The writing tends to be a bit dry & repetitive at times, but if you're interested in the history of net culture it's definitely worth a read.
R. C. Rybnikar
Jun 18, 2016 R. C. Rybnikar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish that I hadn't missed this when it was first published 10 years ago. It is an excellent read.
Jeffrey Hart
This is an important book about the culture that existed during the early years of the PC revolution and the creation of the Internet. The focus is on Stewart Brand and his circle, but it branches out a bit to consider the ideas of Norbert Wiener and other theorists. I found the prose to be a bit windy, but the overall message is sound and there is nothing else out there that really addresses these issues in a serious way.
Sep 07, 2008 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit dull, but well worth reading. It's one of those books that really helps clarify where we are and how we got here. It answers a question that I hadn't thought to ask: How did the culture of computing become so closely allied with a self-contradictory mix of anti-authoritarian politics and communitarian ethos, after being identified with the military and large corporations in the 1950s and 1960s?
h.a. eugene
Dec 21, 2015 h.a. eugene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny thing: after reading this book, the concept (and accompanying image) of conservative/libertarian Grover Norquist going to Burning Man no longer seemed so outlandish and out of character to me. Creepy.
Jan 26, 2012 Ariadna73 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
From Counterculture to Cyberculture theorizes that a group of long-bearded; LSD travelers; free lover hippies are the pre-history of the current culture that underlies all those pads; texting and sort of individualistic devices that lead our society to be what it is right now.
Andrew Miller
Overall, I appreciated what this book had to offer. It connects us with how the internet, although originally designed as a tool for the military to respond to a nuclear attack, it was interpreted by the counter culture movement as a potential tool to unite society.
Mar 11, 2007 kevin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Compelling, scholarly analysis of the influence of the West Coast communalist movement of the late 60s/ early 70s on the development of 1990s cyber-optimism. Nearly biographical account specifically of Stewart Brand of the Whole Earth Catalog / WELL.
Sep 15, 2015 Jon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stalled
Giving up with this for the moment. Good Reads tells me I've been 'reading it' for 3 months; just can't psych myself to pick it up (which is weird for a subject matter I'm so into).

Writing is just realllly dry. Will try again in the future. Meh.
Cybernetics, geodesic domes, the WELL, the start of Wired, and everything else awesome. This book made me briefly consider going to grad school to write its sequel as a dissertation.
Steven Monrad
Feb 20, 2012 Steven Monrad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, biography
Stewart Brand, child of the Pentagon, godfather of the the Whole Earth world view, dispassionate account by Stanford professor, or how the digital utopia was designed to exclude most.
Mike Violano
Feb 24, 2010 Mike Violano rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good bio of Stewart Brand, his band of followers, and the left coast movement that made the Whole Earth catalog and is Wired. A bit dry but worth the trip.
Aug 31, 2008 Weavre marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sorting
Lackawanna: 303.4833 TURNER Valley Community Library Stacks
Author: Turner, Fred
Publisher: University of Chicago Press, 2006.
ISBN: 0226817415
Dec 04, 2007 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: super-geek hippies
Almost five years ago, I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. Today, I can't remember anything in particular that made the book stand out. Read once and recycle.
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Associate Professor
Department of Communication
Stanford University

Director of Stanford’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society
More about Fred Turner...

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“i began to see that i had commodified myself.... i created my interior thoughts as a means of production for the corporation that owned the board i was posting to, and that commodity was being sold to other commodity/consumer entities as entertainment.” 1 likes
“In a 1963 performance entitled "Who R U?" at the San Francisco Museum of Art, Stern and Callahan added highway sounds to the mix, moving them from speaker to speaker in the showroom. They also had individuals placed in booths around a central auditorium, miked their conversations, and replayed them simultaneously in an eighteen-channel remix. By 1965 this show had morphed into a program called "We R All One," in which USCO deployed slide and film projections, oscilloscopes, music, strobes, and live dancers to create a sensory cacophony. At the end of the performance, the lights would go down, and for ten minutes the audience would hear multiple "Om's" from the speakers. According to Stern, the show was designed to lead viewers from "overload to spiritual meditation."19 In the final moments, the audience was to experience the mystical unity that ostensibly bound together USCO's members.” 0 likes
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