// Posted by Shirley on 05/21/2015 (6:58 PM)
Get into The WELL
According to Turner, this computer network, using the Whole Earth Catalog as its model, was created in 1985 by Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant. Brilliant was looking for a ready-made user community. Brand, who envisioned putting some of the Whole Earth Catalog online allowing viewers to be create, brought together counter culturists, hackers (that according to our lecture did not have negative connotations), and journalists. This group had been shaped by Communalist and cybernetic ideas (Turner P. 2102). At first, the users were made up of technologist, staff writers, editor from established magazines and numerous freelance writers. This caused multiple communities to come together as the Whole Earth Catalog had previously done.
The virtual bulletin board system (BBS) community had several design goals according to Kevin Kelly which included Free or as cheap as it could be, it should be profitable, self-governing, self-designing in that it would co-evolve, it would be a community, and Business user would fund it. User contributions would be marketed back to the user. It was a new medium to deliver information. Turner explains that the WELL became not simply a computer conferencing system but a way to recreate the countercultural ideal of a shared consciousness in a new virtual world” (Turner P. 2102). It was grouped into the following categories- Arts and Letters and Entertainment, and its themes were books, cooking, computing and the Grateful Dead (Turner P.2138). Turner explains that this techno centric form of management brought a New Communalist preference for nonhierarchical forms of social organization with a cybernetic vision of control.
Its members could dial up and communicate with each other either asynchronous or real-time. Public and private communication co-existed and it has been referred to as a ‘hang-out’. This network contained the “privileges of membership, and its governance were a set of ideals, management strategies, and interpersonal networks first formulated in and around the Whole Earth Catalog” (Turner P. 2102). In other words, it is a virtual community that is open to almost anyone and requires a paid membership. For the service, users were charged an eight dollar subscription fee and two dollars per hour to log in. Why was The WELL so popular? According the Wikipedia, you know who you’re talking too because The WELL is non-anonymous. You held quality conversation with smart people engaging in a wide range of topics. There is no data-mining. There is no advertising. No pop-ups? It’s a real community. One member recently called it, “A small town all over the world.” “The most influential online community in the world.” — WIRED Magazine.
Instead of capitalism being so contained The Well allowed for open communication and many contributed to its success. Many also benefited. As times changed so did the material posted. It was a place where humans and technology lived in harmony. It was a place where communal living was carried over and existed online.
Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism
(2006) University of Chicago Press ISBN 0-226-81741-5
The WELL. (2015, March 21). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21:55, May 21, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_WELL&oldid=652907006