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

Eric Kluitenberg epk at xs4all.nl
Sun May 6 05:53:24 EDT 2007

hi all,

Just a brief cautioning comment to this snippet of the discussion  

On May 6, 2007, at 1:47, Andrew Keen wrote:

> 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:
>>> 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 think this lumps together some visible and rather prominent people  
in a much larger discussion in an all too easy way. Kelly is simply a  
business-guy or guru more properly, while Rheingold is much more of a  
communitarian, and finally Brand is much more connected to the  
academic / industrial R&D world - While they may share certain ideas  
I think their respective agendas are radically different and a proper  
critique of these agendas (in the plural) should take these  
differences into account to be productive or even sensible.

I'm sorry this is simply too easy - labelling a few people as digital  
utopianists or idealists, then deriding the label, and then to think  
that you have produced an effective critique of the people subsumed  
under that label and their ideas. That doesn't amount to a useful  
critique of their individual agendas, even though I personally also  
believe that some of these agendas require fundamental critique - for  
a multitude of reasons.


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