Saturday, October 28th, 2006
Ah yes, we “can’t put it together—it is together.” “We are as gods and might as well get good at it.” One of my earliest influences and inspirations in publishing, writing, design, and living is being honored at a Stanford University Library symposium.
From Counterculture to Cyberculture: The Legacy of the Whole Earth Catalog is a panel discussion with Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly, Howard Rheingold and others, pioneers all, who led me into the idea that with some Letraset and an IBM composer and some homebaked bran muffins, a batch of well meaning..well, hippies could set out a guide to the resources needed to live healthier, more connected, and more productive lives.
Get that composting system started! Repair your VW bug! Discover 1970s-era contraceptive choices! Make your own yogurt! Find out about these newfangled computer things! Somehow the WEC became a part of my house, along with the Mother Earth News and various other journals we’d order from the Catalog’s pages. Their ‘access to tools’ was a powerful key to a vast world outside Grandview Heights, Ohio, and I wanted to read more, learn more, and explore more—inside and beyond their smudgy newsprint pages.
They published in a cobbled-together, semi-underground manner, and they told us (right down to the minutiae of the process and their balance sheets) how to do it ourselves. They linked the planet (or at least a US-centric version of it) before there was a World Wide Web, and in the earliest days of computer-based communication, their pioneering BBS the WELL brought people crouched behind Apple II screens connected by screeching modems closer together. Brand’s attitude was paternal and big-picture-seeing even from the earliest days…was he ever a young man?
By the way, it looks like much of the contents of Brand’s office is now available to researchers at Stanford. If it ends up completely online, then the Whole Earthers’ legacy will have truly come full circle.