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Showing 1-10 of 13 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 21 reviews
VINE VOICEon July 2, 2008
"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 Turner demonstrates that Cold War technology held great appeal to many of the New Communards of the 1960s, who had withdrawn from the political in order develop consciousness within music, drugs and alternative living arrangements.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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on November 24, 2015
Brilliant cultural history based in part on Stewart Brand's personal archives, donated to Stanford where Turner teaches. Stewart edited the Whole Earth Catalog for years. They used early computing equipment, including the first Macs and eventually the catalog and Whole Earth Review changed focus from "back to the land" to the future of computing. From hippieesque communes to what is coming next from the MIT laboratories about the future of computing. Fascinating insights into the background of computer programmers and how they got the deep seated belief that they can engineer the future.
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on March 15, 2010
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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on May 22, 2007
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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on February 19, 2014
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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on March 30, 2014
I agree wholeheartedly with the NY Times review. My personal journey in northern California was precisely from the counterculture to the cyberculture in Silicon Valley. It is a wonderful analysis of that time and place, and the importance of the counterculture to the rise of the PC and Internet.
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on March 4, 2015
Heavy read, but well researched and an interesting look into the counter-culture around the west coast cyber-community. A great exploration around early users notions of community in general and how it grew out of some of the sixties commune movements.
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on March 10, 2015
This book is both very well written, and very interesting. Five stars simply because "I love it". Easy read, both entertaining and illuminating. "Hippies" will never be the same again!
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on July 23, 2010
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
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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