[iDC] Re:From Counter Culture to Cyber Culture

Trebor Scholz trebor at thing.net
Thu May 10 10:32:39 EDT 2007

Thanks very much to Fred Turner for joining this forum. I highly
recommend his book From Counterculture to Cyberculture in which he
argues that the political influence of cultural resistance in the 60s
and 70s is vastly overestimated. Friends of mine who claim that they
stopped the Vietnam War with the San Francisco Summer of Love
and ten years of persistent demonstrations would not be too pleased.
Fred would be frank, he would disagree. 

He is also cautious with his beliefs in the power of information;
revealing the facts and mobilizing affect may not change much at all,
he'd say. He has been there- he was a journalist for ten years. That's
tough stuff to swallow for artists with political intent. As it is, it
needs a whole lot of faith to believe in art having a reach that goes 
beyond the market. So, what does he suggest? 

Fred learned to respect the power of mighty brick and mortar
institutions and suggests to link (social) networks to these power
centers that are often wrongly portrayed as villains, he says. His
argument is grounded in his research of the Back to the Land Movement,
the communitarians who distrusted everybody over 30. Their attitude, in
fact, did not change much at all, Fred argues.

I agree that the times for binary oppositions are over and that hybrid
interventions are the most hopeful sites for social change today. 
Fist raising rhetoric is not helpful. Simplistic activism is not
helpful. It makes people feel radical, it gives us a rush, it sounds
cool but it shuts down the other side and it does not convince many
people. I don't think that faux radicality moves us ahead. 

Changing things from the inside, however, is an old and definitely
dangerous, tactic with many historical precedents; many agents who
worked for the Stasi motivated their actions exactly like that. For
Fred, the powerhouses of real social change are hegemonic institutions
and the only actual chance for networks to not kid themselves in their
aspirations for building alternatives is to infiltrate those
institutions. Did I get that right, Fred?

If so, how do you make sense of the social networks-- mailing lists and
BBS's of the 90s-- that were the intellectual back bone and inspiration
of social movements like those in Seattle, Genoa, ...? What about
February 2003 with its ten million Iraq war demonstrators, coordinated
through the Internet? Sure, the WTO is still around and even ten million
demonstrators did not stop the war. Does not your argument give up on
cultural resistance as part of a multiplicity of contributions to social

Trebor Scholz

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