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115 of 120 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As the guy in the subtitle, I might be expected to have all kinds of eye-rolling cavils with Turner's book, but I don't. I'm impressed by the thoroughness of his research and his astonishingly accurate depiction of the many brief historical contexts in which his story unfolds. That is hard to do even for people who were there.

I'll add here one micro-correction that I gather Turner plans to fix in the paperback edition. In the early 1960s I was not a draftee in the Army, but an officer on two years active duty in the Infantry. If I at times took a leadership role later on, I was just deploying what I'd been trained to do.

The guy in the subtitle CAN'T give a book 5 stars--- it's impertinent. Hence my 4 stars.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Stewart Brand is a high-IQ Zelig, who has been a catalyst of so many important developments throughout the last 4 decades of the 20th century. This volume is more scholarly, and more revealing of the social forces at work, than Markoff's What the Dormouse Said. It focuses with great intensity on Brand, due to Turner's unique access to Brand's diaries in the Stanford Library. SB is shown to have been central to far more moments of incipient Renaissance than anyone since Lou Salome, friend of Nietzsche, Rilke and Freud: He joined Ken Kesey as an original Prankster, was the videographer for Engelbart's 'mother of all demos,' then linked up all kinds of communes (including Ant Farm) while founding and editing the Whole Earth Catalog. Besides all the events already mentioned, Turner dives deeply into the WELL, which was the primordial "virtual community", co-founded by Brand. With his vision of power as drawn from network affiliations, Brand then built a consulting company called the Global Business Network, which used scenario planning as a form of "corporate performance art", by fusing countercultural norms with the needs of corporate board rooms. Turner does a fairly good job posing critical questions about how the privileged white male perspective defined the unfolding story. He flags the problem of this privilege, but isn't able to concretely identify how it could have been solved. Read this book to learn how SB helped create the world we live in, and deployed his unique social entrepreneurial skills to stay in the center of the game.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 3, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
"From Counterculture to Cyberculture" by Fred Turner offers a groundbreaking work that definitively traces the rise of digital utopianism to the ideals of the 1960s counterculture. Mr. Turner supports his fascinating narrative with original research and provides many pages of thoughtful analysis. This extraordinary book will no doubt be valued by researchers and interested readers who want to gain deep insight into some of the most interesting aspects of America's cultural transformation during the second half of the twentieth century.

Mr. Turner contends that the U.S. scientific/military/academic complex of the 1940s-1960s fostered radically new, collaborative work structures characterized by collegiality and the free sharing of information. While the New Left was repelled by this system and what it regarded to be its instruments of empire, Mr. Turner demonstrates that Cold War technology held great appeal to many of the New Communards of the 1960s, who had withdrawn from the political in order develop consciousness within music, drugs and alternative living arrangements. To key persons within the New Communard movement, it was felt that technology could play a key role in the task of empowering individuals to transform themselves and their world.

In particular, Mr. Turner focuses on the remarkable career of Stewart Brand to tell his story. Mr. Turner discusses how Brand personified the anxieties and aspirations of his generation but importantly, recognized the value of collaboration as a key life strategy and aimed to repurpose technology for the benefit of society. Mr. Turner follows Brand through the various phases of his life, including stints as a member of the LSD-dropping Merry Pranksters, an enterpreneur who published the Whole Earth Catalog, independent writer, organizer of computer conferences, developer of the WELL bulletin board/email system, and tech industry consultant to demonstrate how the personal and professional networks that Brand had a part in building have profoundly impacted our attitudes and perceptions about computing technology. Specifically, Mr. Turner argues that the notion of personal computing as a tool for achieving liberation and the Internet as a platform for constructing egalitarian communities were rooted in the countercultural values that Brand, and others within his circle, embraced.

Mr. Turner goes on to discuss how the so-called New Economy of the 1990s reveled in the libertarian rhetoric that echoed the apolitical logic of the New Communards, who had returned from the failed communes of the 1970s to seek redemption within corporate America through the construction of an immaterial economy of seemingly endless possibility. Assessing the limitations of ideology to achieve lasting reform both then and now, Mr. Turner suggests that the cyberculturalist task of building a truly egalitarian society will remain problematic as long as its members remain alienated from the material world.

I give this brilliant and thoroughly engrossing work the highest possible rating and recommend it to everyone.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2007
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
As someone who was deeply and profoundly influenced by the WEC, WER, and the WELL, I found this to both reinvigorate the excitement of the different eras it discusses and, also, to tie them together and provide fresh insights. After I finished it I looked around my office and realized how much of my thinking was influenced by Steward Brand and his experiments. Easily 30% of the books in my library were originally recommended in either the Catalog or the Review. I was also an early WELL subscriber and a `Maniacal' Whole Earth Review subscriber so almost everything mentioned here I could relate to.

It may devolve into `professor-speak' at times but it is well worth it. If you want to know about one of the critical components of both the `counter culture' of the 60's and the internet revolution of the 90's this is a must read.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Like one of his teachers and friends Buckminster Fuller, Stesart Brand is an archetypal example of the American individualist- inventor the man who Thoreau said ' hears the sound of his own drummer'. Paradoxically the super- individualist Brand is also perhaps the single person most responsible for making ordinary Americans connect with, show concern with the various systems cyber-systems, eco-systems, communications - systems we are moving within.

In this informed, detailed, and extremely well- written survey of the career of Brand, Fred Turner also provides a insightful and exciting look at America 's cultural, and especially 'alternative culture ' development from the sixties through the nineties. Brand meets up on his travels with 'Edge's' John Brockman, with Ken Kesey with whom he is a Merry Prankster, with Bucky Fuller who tries to help his projects,with Kevin Kelly of the 'Wired' world, with many of those seeking new ways of making the Technology connect with communal frameworks that will enable ( at least this is one of Brand's goals) the individual to truly be an individual .

Brand's most famous contribution 'The Whole Earth Catalogue' which was certainly one of the major cultural influences upon the Environmental Movement, and incidentally the Hippy Culture of the Sixties , told us the way we could get anything we needed to make our way into the rapidly changing future. Brand's work as editor and thinker also contributed to the World Wide Web to come, and the name and concept 'personal computer' is also one of his contributions.

This is an important work to read not only to learn about decisive moments in the life of a remarkable individual, but to better understand the world- in- the -making we are a part of.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Every dog has its day, and the past couple weeks for this reader have been Fred Turner's day. Served within the confines of this simple looking book is a compelling account of the activities and ideas surrounding high-culture development and maintenance centered in the San Francisco Bay Area. Fred Turner's résumé as a faculty member at Stanford, Harvard, and MIT, plus his work history as a journalist for eight years in Boston, lend authority and depth to the narrative. On top of that, his writing style will be found engaging and easy to read for those accustomed to scholarly reports. His matter-of-fact treatment of LSD will be especially gratifying for outlanders such as myself--people who by the nature of their individual personal journeys through life have not had much direct exposure to the big-time survival-circus surrounding cutting edge technology, nor to the countercultural history surrounding Stewart Brand and his disparate networks of fellow adventurers. This book has been a welcome step in the direction of connecting with people I have learned to admire. So buy it and get ready for a great mix of cybernetics, systems theory, WWII weapons labs, and all the rest. You won't believe the stuff this guy has dug up.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In lucid, incisive and engaging prose, Fred Turner tells the fascinating story of how innovative modes of working and thinking (born from the World War II military industrial complex) cross-pollinated with hippie counterculture (through the imagination and particular cultural anxieties of Stewart Brand) to produce the current ubiquitous mode of conceiving a world-wide networked reality.

The book isn't a hatchet job of Stewart Brand; but neither is it a celebration of him and his mythology.

It is a sharply-observed, consistently critical look at the ways in which Stewart Brand and his (almost overwhelmingly white, male and privileged) cohort built a particularly powerful ideology, narrative and network around themselves, with very real physical, political, environmental, industrial and ideological consequences.

Damn interesting, and a pleasurable read--Turner's sense of humor and irony are employed subtly but to very enjoyable effect.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I purchased this book after hearing Fred Turner give a talk on his latest research. The book is very well written. Even though the focus is on Stewart Brand and the the Whole Earth empire (including the WELL and the Whole Earth Catalog), the book's overall argument is much broader and well defended. It would be very good to read this book and Patric Kuh's The Last Days of Haute Cuisine together.
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on June 23, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
A very interesting look at computer history and one that's not often fronted. Although the author can get lost in vignettes, it is a good read overall.
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on February 19, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I found the book a bit dull in the beginning, due to its chronologic nature; but nevertheless, very interesting and absorbing after the fact that its full of detailed descriptions and historical occurrences, weren't all known to the vast majority of critics and pundits from today's Interconnected world.

I'd recommend the book to undergraduates and graduate students that want to become better educated in today's new technological revolution, especially in Computer Science fields.
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