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Tag: The WELL


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Group 1′s Discussion of Chapter 5

// Posted by 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… Read more

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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.

 

 


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The WELL, Community, Social Media, and Yogi Berra

// Posted by on 05/23/2015 (3:58 PM)

The WELL was an online space where like-minded people could go and discuss a variety of topics whether they agreed, disagreed, or just had a general interest, they could go there to connect and to share ideas without physically being… Read more

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The WELL was an online space where like-minded people could go and discuss a variety of topics whether they agreed, disagreed, or just had a general interest, they could go there to connect and to share ideas without physically being in the same space. While I know forums of this nature are still very much a part of digital culture today (the guy with the cubicle across from me almost always has some sort of gun discussion forum open), the communal nature of the WELL made me think about the groups I’m a part of on Facebook.

I’ve been provided an opportunity to be a part of a group discussion about a specific topic, in my case mostly craft beer, where we all have a similar interest, but we don’t all agree on everything. This leads to some lively discussion! Similar to the WELL, these groups have moderators, you can choose to not see posts from people if you don’t find value in what they are adding to the discussion, and the point of it all is to share ideas. I don’t know if it’s necessarily sharing ideas in a scholarly, Socratic sense, or like the prompt mentions “sharing” to score cool points, but it’s sharing nonetheless. Social media is a good example of this. I have managed to seek out others who share my interests on Facebook through Groups. I’ve certainly tried to use Facebook groups, or even just my “wall” as an outlet for scholarly debate, but it often just turns into a mess. Often it gets off topic, disrespectful, offensive, full of bots postings ads, or just plain old trolls. Not helpful.

I think that this ease that we connect with people is what gives the Internet the ability to make us feel united. You can see it in grassroots movements that need to raise awareness or gain support. You could see in in 2008 in President (the Senator) Obama’s election campaign and then after having such success he went in the same direction for reelection in 2012. I looked into this a little bit and I found some research done by The Pew Charitable Trusts that stated that while both candidate in 2012 utilized this method of communication to get their messages to their supporters, they didn’t really engage in the “social” part of social media.

http://www.journalism.org/2012/08/15/how-presidential-candidates-use-web-and-social-media/

I wonder why this is? I can only assume it’s because sifting through all of the comments and responses, finding which were legit and which were not, and then actually responding would have taken an amazing amount of time, money, and people.

We’ve also seen people unite internationally through social media. Twitter has been used to raise money for disaster relief. Social media was used last month to raise awareness of violent attacks on foreigners on South Africa.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/17/africa/south-africa-xenophobia-social-media/

 

I think we feel this unity because it social media offers an emotional outlet for whatever a situation might be — disaster, human rights, politics, whatever — and in doing so, leaves people feeling empathetic. The ability to understand another’s emotions will often lead to the desire to act, and sometimes even change.

I don’t think we “almost” need social media to feel like part of the world, but rather I think we absolutely need it. 90% of my news and information about what’s going on in the world comes from social media, not traditional news outlets. Granted, some of it comes from traditional outlets just via social media. TV news has commercials. Social media news is in real time, and users are provided more firsthand accounts. I don’t have TV, and, for me, I’d feel entirely disconnected without social media.

While this is normal for me, as with much cultural change, this could be entirely foreign and daunting to say my grandmother. While my grandmother is no longer with us, she got her news from The Washington Post twice a day and from Walter Cronkite in the evening. The 24 hour news cycle and the constant flow of information over social media would have likely terrified her. Further, if she wanted to talk to someone she would go to their house or vice versa. All the neighbors would get together and some would smoke cigars and drink scotch, some would gossip, and some would just talk. There is a tone of value in that, but with the rise of digital everything, a lot of that sense of physical community is gone.

Social media has likely led to a lot of what Robert D. Putnam discussed in his book Bowling Alone:

“In this alarming and important study, Putnam, a professor of sociology at Harvard, charts the grievous deterioration over the past two generations of the organized ways in which people relate to one another and partake in civil life in the U.S. For example, in 1960, 62.8% of Americans of voting age participated in the presidential election, whereas by 1996, the percentage had slipped to 48.9%. While most Americans still claim a serious “religious commitment,” church attendance is down roughly 25%-50% from the 1950s, and the number of Americans who attended public meetings of any kind dropped 40% between 1973 and 1994. Even the once stable norm of community life has shifted: one in five Americans moves once a year, while two in five expect to move in five years. Putnam claims that this has created a U.S. population that is increasingly isolated and less empathetic toward its fellow citizens, that is often angrier and less willing to unite in communities or as a nation. Marshaling a plentiful array of facts, figures, charts and survey results, Putnam delivers his message with verve and clarity.” 

-Publisher’s Weekly

Where with me, if I don’t know about something the moment it happens, it’s old news by the time I do find out. Just like in the YouTube video it’s fast. Information is fast, news is fast, baby pictures are fast and you have to keep up or you get lost…whether you think you are or not.

I bet this is not just me – when I’m at work and something big happens – someone famous dies, Boston Marathon bombing, royal baby has a name – it almost seems like a competition to be the first one to blurt it out to the office.

I’d like to end by saying that rambling was encouraged.

Not really, I’d like to end with a funny Yogi Berra quote that I found looking up some info on Bowling Alone (it’s been a while since I read it):

The Publisher’s Weekly reviewer who wrote the above stared his/her piece using the great Yogi Berra’s quote to “articulate the value of social networks.”

I’ll leave you with that.


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The WELL

// Posted by 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… Read more

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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

 

Interesting pics:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_community#/media/File:Ad-tech_London_2010_(5).JPG


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Week 2

// Posted by on 05/21/2015 (4:08 PM)

The part of chapter 5 that I found most interesting was the description of the women’s role on the WELL. I found it very interesting that there was even a group called Women of the Well (WOW). The WELL… Read more

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The part of chapter 5 that I found most interesting was the description of the women’s role on the WELL. I found it very interesting that there was even a group called Women of the Well (WOW). The WELL was a place for women to go and engage in discussions and establish their own conversations about new topics. This was a big deal for women during this time.

One reason that this was a big deal for women during this time is because according to the book women during this time were mostly confined to cooking, cleaning, and raising children. There was still a gender divide between men and women’s duties and responsibilities. The WELL gave women the opportunity to expand their knowledge and think about stuff other than household duties. There were not only women who were engaging in discussions but also women who were in leadership roles on the WELL which was a major accomplishment for that time. One female writer on the WELL described her experience as feeling like the WOW was like her extended family that she could talk and ask questions too.

The WELL/WOW was not only a place for these women to write for pleasure, some women were also finding employment through their writings on the WELL. There were many instances in the chapter that described how the WELL gave economic growth to people through writing and research. Freelance writers could use the WELL to find research to make their articles more interesting. Other writers were being discovered due to their writings on the WELL.

Although most of the women felt the WELL was a positive thing there was one women who did not. Susan Herring wrote a paper that was published on the WELL about how women were at a disadvantage online. The debate went on for about 2 years. Most women did not agree with her arguments and they continued to participate on the WELL.


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“Information Wants to Be Free”: The Wiki Model

// Posted by on 01/26/2014 (10:41 PM)

Creator of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, Speaks at TED Conference in 2005

Jimmy Wales: How a Ragtag Band Created Wikipedia

“Wikipedia begins with a very radical idea, and that’s for all of us

Read more

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Creator of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, Speaks at TED Conference in 2005

Jimmy Wales: How a Ragtag Band Created Wikipedia

“Wikipedia begins with a very radical idea, and that’s for all of us to imagine a world where every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge, and that’s what we’re doing.”

– Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia creator

It no surprise that the freely-licensed Encyclopedia, Wikipedia, has foundations that can be traced back to the cyberculture movement and specifically the development of The WELL, one of the first online communities. As we discussed in class, the Wiki model is somewhat controversial and interesting. Watching the 2005 TED talk by Wikipedia creator Jimmy Wales furthered the connections we had made in class about free information and self-governing systems. Jimmy Wales’s Wiki Model fosters a “community” much like the one created by The WELL. This community abides by a non-negotiable neutrality policy that upholds the social concept of cooperation, as Wikipedia does not take a stand on issues, but rather aims to give the public information they need to make good decisions. As explained by Wales, the governing of Wikipedia consists of a mix of consensus, some democracy (i.e. elected administrators have ability to delete pages but have to follow the rules), some aristocracy (votes by respected Wikipedians have more weight), and monarchy (the community entrusts in Wales for hard decisions). The Wikipedia community is “close-knit” and consists of ~600-1,000 people (in 2005) who are in constant communication within the community and outside of it. Interestingly, only about 18% (2005 estimate) of all the edits are done by anonymous users.

The Wiki Model, just like the countercultural to cyberculture movement, occurred organically: “The free-form nature of the Wiki software lets the community determine how it wants to interact.” For example, when someone in the community votes on a page’s deletion, it is more of a dialogue than a vote and members discuss the potential of the page and the progress that can be made on it, all while abiding by the neutrality policy.

Although the neutrality policy is strict, “anyone who wants to pitch in is in charge,” as said by Jimmy Wales, and further supports the self-governing ideals and breaks down hierarchy. I thought this structure was very directly related to the paragraph on p.224 (Chapter 7) about “nested hierarchies.” As discussed above, Wikipedia has some sort of nested hierarchies, but its existence does not necessarily prohibit equality: “…so hierarchies do indeed exist. But they are ubiquitously distributed, which renders them an egalitarian force.”

In general, I thought it was highly interesting that Wales had spoke about Wikipedia at this TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) Conference, as it is considered “one of the most important networking events in the computer industry,” (p.211) and has very close connections to the Wired network, the GBN, and Digital Visionaries as a whole.

“Wiki model is the way we work, but we are not fanatical web anarchists. We are very flexible about the social methodology because it is ultimately the passion of the community is for the quality of the work, not necessarily for the process that we use to generate it.”

–Wales


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