When Stewart Brand decided to take his Whole Earth Catalog digital, he created the WELL (Whole Earth Lectronic Link) and envisioned a self-governing system. In Brand’s view, information could be shared by users more frequently and allowed then to communicate in real time. Unlike the Whole Earth Catalog which was produced a few times a year, the WELL would allow users to communicate as frequently as they wanted or needed too. They would be able to access information more readily than they could from the catalog.

Brand decided that his Lectronic Link would be a self-governing system even though he charged users a subscription fee. The difference between this fee and what the other corporations were offering is that it was not a means for Brand to profit off of consumers. Brand believed that people would be more willing to exchange information through his site if they felt they were a community and a network, instead of workers for a company. I found this to be interesting because eight years ago I found myself being a part of a blogging community called “Shine” which was (and probably still is) a part of Yahoo. I remember being eager to blog as often as I could, to share my thoughts, advice, or great buys with this newfound community. It never felt like a chore to take time out of my day to do this. I believe this is what Brand envisioned when he wanted a self-governing system.

One user stated “The WELL is the online hangout of choice for an incredible array of experts; multimedia artists, musicians, newspaper columnists, neurobiologists, radio producers, futurists, computer junkies. I can contact any of them directly, through email or post a plea for information in a public conference and more often than not be deluged with insights and informed opinions. Most compellingly, the conferences devoted to non-work issues and to fun and nonsense give me a chance to get to know these folks better, and vice versa.” When reading this description, I thought about how Google has become the main search engine for us to get information. The WELL in contrast allowed people to share information with one another, without anyone profiting from it. This is how I think a self-governing system operates.


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