Group 1′s Discussion of Chapter 5
// Posted by Shirley on 05/23/2015 (9:53 PM)
The WELL (located in the San Francisco Bay area) is an unexpected consequence for Stewart Brand who created the Whole Earth Catalog, and I think that Fred Turner did a good job explaining that where one stopped the other pick up the digital connection and spread it to a wider audience. Larry Brilliant wanted to use the already established network that the catalog provided. Like an over protective father, Brand was selective in what he would allow Brilliant to have. Turner indicates that “…nearly twenty years after it served the back-to-the-land movement the Whole Earth Catalog became a model for one of the most influential computer networks to date…” I like the name WELL as it conjures up images of a meeting place in biblical times. Singular energy… close to God. Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant started the WELL which was a teleconferencing system within which subscribers (according to Kevin Kelly’s list -for a membership charge and specific rules of engagement) could hold conversations amongst peers and other computer savvy individuals. This group of people (community) held likeminded interests as Brand and Brilliant but also included experts in the technological field such as hackers and journalists/editors who were associated with well-known publications such as New York Times and Rolling Stone. The participants could communicate from multiple locations, real time or whenever time permitted. The WELL was dug deeper as the celebrity interest grew.
According to Turner, one of the benefits of the WELL included a rise in a social network that built economic organization and in freelance patterns of employment. Their employment depended on these connections and this textual forum became a place for business and community. Turner uses words like “virtual community and electronic frontier” to describe the WELL. Turner attributes this to the expertise on Howard Rheingold and John Perry Barlow. In an attempt to escape mainstream bureaucracy and it changes through the years, this virtual community was enticing.
Some similarities that the WELL has to modern day social media are the “McLuhan Equation” which indicates that the medium is the message. The medium refers to mass forms of communication such as radio, television, the press, the Internet. And the message is the actual information. They both started small and grew rapidly. Information can be obtained, shared or disputed. There is instant gratification when things go well and you get multiply tries as being “liked”. They both have some form of governance, and they each have cost. Once you put the information out there be it correct or incorrect… it is out there for all eyes. However, the WELL seemed to solicit the attention of a specific audience where social media does not.
I have friends that post every minute of their day online “as if”. Anyone that has this kind of time needs a real life. Personally, some people become too self-absorbed and seem addicted. Not only do they post but the expect you to respond timely and become offended when you do not. Some users will say or show almost anything to get your attention. This being said… I think parents, churches and schools have control over the actions of the next generation. There should be limits placed on what social media usage. Even the WELL had rules. I think that one day users are going to wake up to realize that too much of their personal lives have been shared. Especially as it starts to bring negative impact such as not being selected for jobs or promotions, difficulty running for office, future mother-in-law knows a little too much about you.