Tagcyberculture history

Life on the Fringes of Cyberculture: An Interview with Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn

Vice interviews Gareth Branwyn, a writer for the late great Mondo 2000 magazine and author of the forthcoming Borg Like Me:

What are some of weirdest fringe scenes out there?

Well, the whole dark net world of Anyonmous, 4chan (the anonymous images/bbs where rebels, criminals, and crusaders hang out), anonymous P2P networks are pretty kooky. And things like Tor, which you can use to buy mailorder illegal drugs with bitcoin. It has been said that what you see on 4chan will melt your brain, and that’s no lie. You see things, you hear things, that you can’t unsee or unhear.

Then, of course, there’s the whole Jihadist net, but I’ve never checked that out. I’ve also been researching a feature article on sexcam sites and that’s this whole specific world and there’s very kooky stuff on there—naked yoga shows, sexual game shows, women who craft and run raffles and then masturbate when they’re done and send the craft item to the raffle winner. That’s a fascinating subculture that I don’t think anybody outside of it knows much about.

Ah yes, I’ve heard about the sexcam trend. So how do you go about researching something like that?

So far, I’ve just been watching A LOT of cams… for research. I’m establishing relationships with various models and will hopefully convince some of them to talk candidly to me about themselves and their work. This isn’t going to be a piece about the business of these sites, but rather, about the models themselves and their “shows,” who their fans are, the nature of these relationships. I think it’s rather unique and an interesting twist on DIY sex work and net-based intimacy here in the early 21st century.

Full Story: Vice Motherboard: Life on the Fringes of Cyberculture: An Interview with Gareth Branwyn

(via Chris)

The “Mindstyle” of Pseudo-counter Culturalism in the Tech Industry, in 1993 and Today

Michael Stevenson revisits the “Mondo 2000 vs. Wired” of the early 90s to compare it to the contemporary blogger and startup culture:

The co-optation argument, however, fails to recognize a subtle but important difference between Mondo’s ‘rebel cool’ and that found in previous subcultures. Where subcultures are typically conceived of as ‘outsider’ scenes, from those in the counterculture that consciously ‘dropped out’ of mainstream society to more recent outsider scenes like punk and rave culture, the subversive computer culture Mondo proclaimed to represent was different. To borrow a key theme from Alan Liu’s book The Laws of Cool, Mondo’s cyberculture is best described as a scene of insiders-outside and outsiders-inside. The ideal subversive computer culture was something simultaneously inside and outside of mainstream, corporate America – for example, the corporate- and state-employed hackers and cyberpunks that Mondo imagined to be driving a social and cultural revolution from “inside the belly of the beast,” as Robert Anton Wilson wrote in the magazine’s first issue.

Wired’s style was similarly built on this contradictory positioning. Think, for example, of its portrayals of tech CEOs as rogue upstarts, as outsiders bringing about a subversive future from inside the system. This was also the essence of how Wired itself was imagined and operated – as an independent magazine that would infiltrate and revolutionize the mainstream publishing industry (on this, see especially Gary Wolf’s history of Wired, in which he often points out Louis Rossetto’s ambivalent relationship with his traditional publishing ‘peers’). This was not a co-optation of Mondo’s style, but an elaboration of its outsider-inside identity.

Full Story: webcultures.org: Cybercultural “mindstyles” circa 1993 and 2013

(via John Ohno)

See also:

The Californian Idealogy

Silicon Valley’s Anti-Capitalism-Capitalism

(Disclosure: I write for Wired)

Before Arpanet, The Secret Origins Of E-Mail

No. 1 ESS ADF

Colin Berkshire writes:

The invention of email is widely credited to be Ray Tomlinson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Tomlinson) in 1971. In one especially oddball webpage, VA Shiva Ayyadurai claims to have actually invented email in 1978. (http://www.inventorofemail.com). Mr. Ayyadurai mostly substantiates his claim by playing games with the definition of what email is, basically arguing that email didn’t exist until his particular program was written, and that nothing beforehand actually amounted to what he defines as being email. I won’t play those games with you here. [...]

And, the #1 ESS ADF was in full production service February 3, 1969…almost five years before Ray Tomlinson sent the first email message and well before ARPANet even existed. To clarify, that was full commercial service…not a research laboratory.

When the #1 ESS ADF system was cut into service in 1969, it was of a truly massive scale for the time. 1,250 terminals located in 720 locations across the country were connected. These were used by Western Electric and AT&T Long Lines to send administrative messages, traffic orders, commercial service orders, payroll, plant service results, and budgeting reports. There was no other system, including universities, with such widespread use.

Full Story: Cloudave: The Origin of Email

The system is described in the Bell System Technical Journal in 1970, and is also mentioned by Jim Haynes in an essay on Teletype Corporation.

Cyberculture History: The GUI Turns 50

My article for Wired on the 50th anniversary of the original graphical user interface:

Fifty years ago today, Ivan Sutherland introduced the first graphical computer application: a drafting program called Sketchpad.

At a time when computers were operated with punch cards and command lines — and the mouse had not yet been invented — Sutherland used a light pen to manipulate lines and shapes on a screen. With Sketchpad, you could draw perfectly straight lines, change the size of shapes without altering the proportions, and create “rubber band lines” you could bend and stretch — many of the things you can do today with programs like AutoCAD and Adobe Illustrator.

Sketchpad’s legacy can’t be overstated. It directly fed the creation of Douglas Englebart’s oN Line System (the subject of the “Mother of All Demos”), which would influence, well, every graphical computing system that came after it, from the Xerox PARC Alto to the Apple Macintosh to the iPhone.

Full Story: Wired Enterprise: iPhone’s Great Granddaddy Celebrates 50th Birthday

Cyberculture History: Early, Influential Online Community The WELL in Danger

First Minitel, now this:

The WELL is a virtual online community with user-generated content that was so influential, it was once featured on the cover of Wired magazine, and a top 80′s UK pop star created an account, to promote his brand there. (Sound familiar?) As you might have read last week, corporate owner Salon.com laid off the WELL staff and is now looking for a buyer. Now the WELL’s last users (it still has over 2,000 subscribers) are making a last-minute bid to buy the WELL from Salon: A thread called “Would you kick in $1,000 for The Well?” (subscriber account required), has already garnered over 120 members pledging $1000 (some less, many more, with at least one pledge of $10,000), for an estimated total of over $120,000. That’s a lot of money, especially coming from so few people, but it may not be enough. Many have pointed out that the Well.com domain name is probably quite attractive to organizations willing to pay a lot to own it. (For example, an HMO who wants turn well.com into a wellness resource.) So at the moment, it’s still unclear what this user-driven campaign will do, though I hope the WELL can survive in some form.

New World Notes: Will The WELL Survive? Members Pledge $100K+ to Buy Influential Virtual Community from Corporate Owners

See also:

The World’s Most Influential Online Community (And It’s Not AOL)

Cyberculture History: French Proto-Internet Minitel to Shutdown at the End of June

Cyberculture History: Alan Turing Might Not Have Committed Suicide

The BBC Reports:

Alan Turing, the British mathematical genius and codebreaker born 100 years ago on 23 June, may not have committed suicide, as is widely believed.

At a conference in Oxford on Saturday, Turing expert Prof Jack Copeland will question the evidence that was presented at the 1954 inquest.

He believes the evidence would not today be accepted as sufficient to establish a suicide verdict.

Indeed, he argues, Turing’s death may equally probably have been an accident.

Full Story: BBC: Alan Turing: Inquest’s suicide verdict ‘not supportable’

He says none of this excuses the way Turing was treated in later life, he just argues that the investigation was handled poorly and the evidence to support the suicide theory are poor. Copeland argues that murder is another possibility.

Cyberculture History: French Proto-Internet Minitel to Shutdown at the End of June

Minitel welcome screen

The French are pulling the plug on Minitel, their national BBS system:

Thirty years ago, France led the world into the 21st century, but the world hardly noticed. In 1981-82, two French inventions offered a glimpse of the future. One was the Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) or high-speed train. The other was the Minitel. The what? [...]

The Minitel was the world’s first large data base accessible to the public. The Minitel terminal – provided free to subscribers – was the first screen-and-keyboard combination widely available in any country. Minitel had chat lines where people could commentate on world events, or their own lives, long before the blogosphere. There was even an abbreviated Minitel language, rather like “text speak”, such as “slt, té ki?” (salut, qui es- tu; or hello, who are you?)

Full Story: The Independent: How France fell out of love with Minitel

I found this via Boing Boing and Bruce Sterling, who both linked to a weird abridged version of the above article that was missing a few paragraphs, including this bit:

Gerome Nox, a veteran male French pop musician, admitted this week to the newspaper Libération that he had in a previous life been “Julie”, an “animatrice” or hostess on one of the first Minitel text-sex lines. Few women wanted the work, he said, so most of the “hostesses”, paid the equivalent of £2.50 an hour, were men.

“(The clients) were like a shoal of starving piranha fish,” he said. “No hello. No polite openings. It was to the point and crude.” After a while he realised that “my Julie” had become “disagreeable, wicked and odious”. He announced online that he was a man “whose job is to inflate all your phone bills. So you’ve all been screwed, just like you wanted to be”. He was fired the next day.

See also:

Before the Web, AOL, and Prodigy, There was Minitel

Cyberculture History: Before the World Wide Web Did Anything, HyperCard Did Everything

Cyberculture History: Before the World Wide Web Did Anything, HyperCard Did Everything

cyberpunk stack for Hypercard
Above: an image from the Beyond Cyberpunk Hypercard stack

Ars Technica honors the 25 anniversary of Hypercard, a discontinued desktop hypertext application for Macs:

Even before its cancellation, HyperCard’s inventor saw the end coming. In an angst-filled 2002 interview, Bill Atkinson confessed to his Big Mistake. If only he had figured out that stacks could be linked through cyberspace, and not just installed on a particular desktop, things would have been different.

“I missed the mark with HyperCard,” Atkinson lamented. “I grew up in a box-centric culture at Apple. If I’d grown up in a network-centric culture, like Sun, HyperCard might have been the first Web browser. My blind spot at Apple prevented me from making HyperCard the first Web browser.” [...]

Programmers for the Cyan software company originally wrote their hugely popular puzzle/adventure game Myst as a HyperCard stack. That explains the game’s beautiful graphics and slow motion quality, punctuated by ambient sounds or an unexpected video. But even in 1987, when Macs displayed in black and white, HyperCard developers and graphics artists produced subtle, fascinating landscapes that often escape the Web to this day.

Full Story: Ars Technica: 25 years of HyperCard—the missing link to the Web

Cyberculture History: William Gibson on 90s Cyberculture

ACCELER8OR is running an excerpt from the William Gibson interview conducted by Simone Lackerbauer for the MONDO 2000 history project:

We do, in fact, now constantly inhabit a sort of blended VR, but we now assume that we don’t need the goggles as long as whatever’s on the screen is sufficiently engrossing. And the distinction between real and virtual continues to blur. The virtual is colonizing the real, but generally in ways we don’t notice. VR was predicated on a notion of real/virtual that now seems very last-century. Our grandchildren won’t be able to readily imagine where we were at, with that one!

Full Story: ACCELER8OR: William Gibson On MONDO 2000 & 90s Cyberculture (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #16)

See also:

Whatever Happened to Virtual Reality? – Virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier interviewed by R.U. back in 2002.

Notes from a William Gibson Q&A Session (9/08/10), which covers a little of the same ground.

Genesis P-Orridge, Hakim Bey and John Perry Barlow in Conversation (1993)

Here’s an old Mondo 2000 interview from 1993 with both Genesis P-Orridge and Hakim Bey conducted by Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow:

JOHN: Right, Taoism has no truck with good and evil at all.

HAKIM: Taoism seems to be the one religion that doesn’t have the Gnostic trace.

JOHN: In our culture, the problem arose with the Romans.

HAKIM: I think it goes further back. It’s Babylon. It’s just like the Rastas say, “It happened in Babylon.” It’s Marduk and Tiamat. It’s Mr. Hard-on God up against Sloppy Mom. In China, chaos is a benevolent property. Huntun is the gourd or the egg out of which everything comes. He’s a wonton. Huntun and wonton are the same words. He’s like this little dumpling and everything good comes out of him. In Babylon, chaos is the disgusting monster vagina that has to be ripped up by Marduk into myriad blobs of shit and slime. And we are those globs of slime. That’s how the human race came into being. What is the purpose of the human race? To serve Marduk, to serve the masculine principle, to store up grain in the granary for the priests, to pay for the priests for their sacrifice so they get the free hamburgers. That’s the whole Western myth. It’s St. George and the Dragon. St. George pins the dragon down.

In China, the dragon is the free expression of creativity. He’s the mixture of Yin and Yang, the principle of power. But here’s evil, plain and simple. This is why chaos has kicked off, for me, for Ralph Abraham, and others, an interest in making a critique of this Western mythology, and saying, “Let’s put Humpty Dumpty back together.”

JOHN: There’s been an interesting co-evolution lately of a lot of apparently disconnected things, like chaos mathematics and neo-tribalism, a sudden interest in Taoism and what I perceive to be a deep feminization of Western culture.

GEN: Some philosophers feel that there’s a risk in absolute unconditional surrender of that male-God power, even though it’s obviously failed miserably. Should we seek out every possible male trait and subordinate it to a female principle?

HAKIM: I didn’t like the rule of Dad, but I don’t think I’m going to like the rule of Mom either.

Pastbin: Zoning Out, Temporarily with Hakim Bey and Genesis P-Orridge

See also:

Douglass Rushkoff in Conversation with Genesis P. Orridge (2003 and 2007)

Hakim Bey dossier

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge dossier

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