Wired is what Turner describes as a network forum, that is, both trading zone and boundary object. As he (2006:209) explains, “within [Wired] writers used computational metaphors and universal rhetoric of cybernetics to depict New Right politicians, telecommunications CEOs, information pundits, and members of GBN, the WELL, and other Whole Earth–connected organizations as a single, leading edge of countercultural revolution.” The interview in the August 1995 issue of Wired between Esther Dyson and Newt Gingrich is treated by Turner as part of the magazine’s vision for a new economy, supported by peer-to-peer networks and the rhetoric of a collaborative society. But Turner connects this vision to founder Louis Rossetto who, along with Jane Metcalf, drew heavily on the Whole Earth world for its funders, subjects, and writers.
Like many New Communalists, Rossetto believed the political stance assumed by members of the New Left to be futile. Similar to the anti-political position adopted by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, Rossetto had come to believe that “in order to influence [the political world] you had to become it. The best way to change things was to walk away … You had to start with yourself” (quoting Rossetto, Turner 2006:210). Turner argues that it was the social fabric of the Whole Earth world that provided a foundation for Rossetto’s antistatism in Wired magazine. If we fast forward to Esther Dyson’s interview of Newt Gingrich in the August 1995 issue of Wired, we return to a central interest of Turner: the way digital technology has become a tool and symbol for business while at the time contributing to a perception, well documented among those affiliated with Wired, that business is the best resource for social change (2006:232).
Technology is simultaneously a tool for business and what makes business the best resource for social change. Lending credence to this view is the manifesto co-authored by Esther Dyson together with George Gilder, Alvin Toffler, and George Keyworth entitled “Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age.” Turner (2006:228) argues that their manifesto “extended the cybernetic and countercultural analogies current in the social worlds of the Whole Earth and Wired, linked them to a libertarian political agenda, and ultimately used them as symbolic resources in support of the narrow goal of deregulating the telecommunications industry.” From the outset, the document relates computational technology as achieving nothing less than the overthrow of matter itself. Our current economy is based neither on farming and manual labor nor on mass production. Instead, in this postindustrial society knowledge is the central actionable resource (Turner 2006:228). Much as members of New Communalism had hoped, computational technology was facilitating “the ‘overthrow of matter’ by the ‘power of mind'” (Turner 2006:228).
Due by midnight Tuesday, December 15th (350-400 words).
For our final hybrid assignment, please take some time to reflect on what you will take away from this course. Thinking back to the first day of class, when we reflected on how digital media structures our daily lives, it becomes immediately clear how much ground we have covered. If you were asked to answer this question again, what would you say? If possible, please include details about the readings you enjoyed the most and why. Also address what readings and topics were the most difficult for you.
Well, this chapter focused on making it abundantly clear that the network of corporate/political alliances that arose through the pages of WIRED during the first five years of the magazine had long reaching effects on the shape that the web and its attendant technologies assumed. Basically the web and the world look the way they do because of the affiliations between the ideological and technical impressions that that WIRED gang penned and partnered with actual politicians that were socially conservative and had their hands in creating legislation that would make the development of various technologies and the corporate structures from which they issued free to do as they wanted. Esther Dyson and Newt Gingrich go on to write “The Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age” which later becomes the guiding principle to Gingrich’s efforts (successful) to deregulate the telecommunications industry. People want to make money and want to feel free to do so – without any legislative restrictions to hold them accountable to the means by which they do so – and to ward off any socially inspired pangs of conflict over what they do. Gingrich and his political base to render, in absolute terms, personal freedoms with corporate deregulation, utilized the “Magna Carta” that these two created. This document was like a Manifest Destiny for the “frontier of cyberspace” and in my impression replicates much of what American exceptionalism is about – that entrepreneurial and vigilante sensibility specific to the business individualism that stands in for the idea of freedom.
I always find it bizarre when an obvious spiritual guru or pundit partners with the corporate sector to develop interpersonal pedagogy for business relations, or rather when an aforementioned mystical figures ideology is utilized for business minded ends. (Thinking about the mention of Gurdjieff’s “Remarkable Men” concept as employed by Pierre Wack at Shell.) This occurs on page 185.
Drawing on the mish mash of information that Turner provides in chapter 6, I can see how this trend was established via the Global Business Network and their web of connections, though nothing about it seems remarkable to me or even slightly different than what I imagine the Business/Corporate sector operated like, pre-cold war New Communalist “innovation”.
Isn’t it all just nepotism and an elite class protecting its interconnected interests? That’s literally my question.
Like what even is the remarkable social change that this global business network is achieving? Do they just feel better about how they extract resources and labor from the global south because they incorporate more holistic activities into their managerial profile?
In many ways this chapter is like a confirmation of whatever off the wall conspiracy theories one could conjure about the corporate tech elite. I don’t really feel swayed by the jargon that Turner parrots in this chapter – all the talk about these networks bonding together and seeking to unify their business goals with vaguely New Communalist socio-ethics and consciousness is really tiresome. I don’t know what that means, even with the pages and pages of detailed historical charting.
I suppose the only piece that seemed personally relevant or of interest was the mention of Paul Hawken – the organic grocer/founder of Erewhon Trading Company and later Smith & Hawken gardening supply company. My best friend used to work for Smith & Hawken, and I am very familiar with Erewhon – the natural foods brand. I used to work in the Health and Wellness industry and watched Whole Foods become the behemoth that it is (specifically in New York City) over the last 13 years. The CEO and “spiritual” founder of Whole Foods Market is a man named John Mackey – a noted multi-millionaire, organic foods proponent, and libertarian. He wrote a book called conscious capitalism (cringe) and is himself a mish mash of holistic seeming eco-ethics and terrible labor practices.
All that to say, I wonder if perhaps the influence of the particular confluence of socially indebted change making that the Global Business Network derived from its blend of New Communalist derived interdisciplinary and politically conscious, information systems informed networking has rubbed off on other industries outside of the tech bubble climate. We see this with the big players mentioned in chapter 6 – shell, and other evil empires, but I am wondering if we see can trace this methodology of doing business to other arenas – such as lifestyle peddling empires like Whole Foods Market. I would identify Mark Zuckerberg as an heir to this innovation – not just because he wields the (arguably) most powerful social practice technology to have arisen in this century – but because the earnestness of his ideas about connection harken back to a lot of what the New Communalist networks were about – trading information and building relationships via platforms such as the Whole Earth Catalog and the WeLL.
What figure would you identify as belonging to this kind of social/business practice enterprise mentality?
At the chapter 7 “Wired”, Turner argues that “a close look at Wired’s first and most influential five years suggests that the magazine’s vision of the digital horizon emerged in large part from its intellectual and interpersonal affiliations with Kevin Kelly and the Whole Earth network and, through them, from the New Communalist embrace of the politics of consciousness.” The magazine “Wired”, Turner argues, was as much a lifestyle magazine promoting social and cultural networks as much as a computer magazine promoting technical networks, “There are a lot of magazines about technology. Wired is not one of them. Wired is about the most powerful people on the planet today—the Digital Generation. These are the people who not only foresaw how the merger of computers, telecommunications and the media is transforming life at the cusp of the new millennium, they are making it happen”. Wired magazine was as an ideological consequence of the Whole Earth ideology. Turner argues that, contrary to conventional accounts that explain how Wired magazine developed out of a libertarian political philosophy, it actually had one foot in the Whole Earth ideology as well. I am sorry but I didn’t understand the chapter completely, it got me a little confuses. It is hard for me to answer the question.