Prof. Bullock’s response to hybrid assignment 12

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).

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