[iDC] Re:From Counter Culture to Cyber Culture: The "Utopian" thing.....

Andrew Keen ak at aftertv.com
Sat May 5 19:47:10 EDT 2007

you guys can dress all this up in complex theory, but when what Kelly 
wants to do is turn everyone into Justin TV. While Brand views humanity 
as just another platform for technological innovation. What Fred's book 
does really well is identify the intellectual origins of all this. 
Whether one calls it "utopianism" or not isn't the issue. These are 
radical idealists with a really scary agenda.

Ryan Shaw wrote:
> On May 5, 2007, at 10:51 AM, Samuel Rose wrote:
>> It's important to really define what you mean by "Digital Utopianism".
>> Are we really trying thoroughly and accurately examine whether these 
>> people are operating on "Utopian" fundamental assumptions? Or, are we 
>> really just trying to build a "brand" of intellectualism that has as 
>> it's basis an "anti" digital socio-techno bent?
> I don't believe Fred Turner is trying to establish an "anti-digital" 
> brand (though Andrew Keen most definitely is). I don't think you can 
> read Turner's book and come away with the impression that he is 
> anti-digital (in fact, a few months ago on this list he was accused of 
> being too pro-digital). Rather than taking a stance for or against 
> digital technology, Turner tries to escape the 
> pro-digital/anti-digital dichotomy by making visible the process by 
> which that dichotomy was created.
>> So far, my conclusion is that I think it's quite unfair, and 
>> definitely not accurate, to label these people discussed in this book 
>> as "Digital Utopians".
>> A "Utopian" view is generally defined as a non-realistic view of 
>> perfection.  I  think this word is misused to describe the 
>> social/technological/cultural phenomenon this book is covering.
>> I am part of the networks that have emerged from the "Whole Earth 
>> Network"(and also part of many other networks that have nothing to do 
>> with this network). The visions and concepts discussed by people like 
>> Kevin Kelly, Howard Rheingold, Alan Kay, and others referenced in 
>> Fred's book are grounded in reality, and are generally workable, 
>> usable theoretical constructs. The works these people put out take 
>> into account the pros and cons of technology. Calling them "Digital 
>> Utopians" seems to steer me towards the conclusion that these people 
>> are are irrationally one-sided in their conclusions about technology, 
>> and that they espouse the view that the world will be a perfect 
>> place, if people only were to adopt their techno-social visions.
> Just because someone acknowledges the impossibility of perfection 
> doesn't mean they aren't one-sided in their conclusions. Brand, Kelly, 
> Rheingold et al are too rhetorically sophisticated to say that their 
> goal is perfection. Instead, their arguments usually take the form of 
> asserting that some technological imperative is inevitable, 
> acknowledging that there are bound to be problems given human 
> fallibility, and then concluding that we have no other choice but to 
> let expert technologists guide us through these straits--and that we 
> stand to benefit greatly if we do.
>> I'd like to get down to direct references. Hard evidence of why we 
>> should consider these people "Utopians". Who are the "Digital 
>> Utopians", exactly, and why exactly should we regard them as 
>> illogical and unrealistic "Utopians" vs. theorists, or designers? 
>> Where is the evidence? And, if there is no evidence, then why are we 
>> talking about this?
> Here are two recent examples just off the top of my head. First, 
> Kelly's recent blog post entitled "Lifelogging, An Inevitablity"[1], 
> in which he concludes as follows:
> "For many skeptics the social challenges of lifelogging will doom it 
> to a small minority, or else earn it full prohibition. They don’t want 
> ubiquitous lifelogging, and find it implausible than anyone will once 
> they see it in action. ... I believe we’ll invent social norms to 
> navigate the times when lifelogging recording is appropriate or not, 
> but for the most part total recording will become as pervasive as text 
> is to us now. It will be everywhere and we won’t even notice it – 
> except when it is gone."
> Now you might argue that this is not utopian, as Kelly acknowledges 
> the existence of "skeptics" (always a smear among the Wired crowd) who 
> might have a problem with the constant recording of the world around 
> them.  But these nay-sayers may as well not exist, because for Kelly 
> there is only one possible future, the one in which total recording 
> becomes pervasive. I consider that refusal to consider other possible 
> futures one-sided.
> The second example is from the recent "New Media and Social Memory" 
> symposium held at UC Berkeley in January[2], at which I heard Stewart 
> Brand disparage bio-ethicists as "people who like to say no." For 
> Brand, the only legitimate response to biotechnology is participation 
> in its development or unconditional support. Or as Brand once put it, 
> "Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the 
> steamroller, you're part of the road." From this perspective, only 
> technologists are qualified to make decisions about what should or 
> shouldn't be done. Again, while this attitude may not be utopian it is 
> certainly one-sided.
>> Are we saying that these people discussed in Fred's book have somehow 
>> foisted a lifestyle and culture upon the Western world based on a 
>> counter-culture Utopian vision of digital human perfection? If so, 
>> should we think the same way about anyone who tries to improve human 
>> existence through technological design? Especially if their patterns 
>> are rapidly adopted and used on a mainstream scale? Were they 
>> "Utopians", or were they pragmatic thinkers? Where is the inherent 
>> sinister evil in these "Digital Utopians" that I am missing here? 
>> Where were the "Digital Utopians" misguided, and how has reality 
>> shown them to be wrong?
> We shouldn't condemn people who strive to improve human existence 
> through technological design. We should be wary of people who assert 
> that the only legitimate way to improve human existence is through 
> technological design.
> As for "how reality has shown them to be wrong," well, the nice thing 
> about being a futurist is that you can always claim that the future 
> you foretold just hasn't arrived yet, so you never have to be wrong.
> Ryan Shaw
> [1]http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2007/02/lifelogging_an.php
> [2]http://www.bampfa.berkeley.edu/about/newmedia
> _______________________________________________
> iDC -- mailing list of the Institute for Distributed Creativity 
> (distributedcreativity.org)
> iDC at mailman.thing.net
> http://mailman.thing.net/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/idc
> List Archive:
> http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/
> iDC Photo Stream:
> http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/idcnetwork/

More information about the iDC mailing list