fred turner

fred turner

[mtn view, ca]

intro’d to Fred here via an interview with Howard:

Conversation with Fred Turner, author of The Democratic Surround

Published on Jan 31, 2014

Fred Turner, author of “From Counterculture to Cyberculture,” talks about his latest book, in which he uncovered the ways today’s multimedia was deliberately created during World War II & the Cold War to encourage the creation of “democratic personalities” — a multidecade collaboration and convergence that included Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, the Bauhaus, John Cage, Buckminster Fuller, Black Mountain College, Andy Warhol, Marshall McLuhan, the US Information Agency, and the Museum of Modern Art.

Cage spent a summer at black mtn with Bucky, … stages first happening.. be-in .. intro to 60’s..

15 min – creativity is seen as the solution to a social problem..

16 min – the family of man – fulcrum moment – to a time where democracy is more controlled

18:40 propaganda – therapeutic nationalism – ie: most reporters would take pictures of people taking the family of man in – while they are looking very similar to what they are looking like.. to drive in this likeness mentality

21 – howard – almost like refridgerators/consumerism – helped conquer communism.. fred – push for consumerism comes after ww2.. 50’s .. people’s capitalism.. the surround during ww2.. was now combined with consumer goods.. and buying goods seemed a way to create allies..

23 – informational consumerism happening now..

informational consumerism

24 – i had no idea that the world of happenings and be-ins was connected to the world of propaganda.. the idea is almost unthinkable.. i was raised that 60s were a revolution and 50s were a cut and dried father knows best world b/w world. cage would travel – to showhouse free individual.. embracing america.. when cage goes to ny 57-58 w/new modes of performance.. then happenings continue in ny.. 66 show in riverside – first be-in.. became basis of human be in of 67 – kicked off high cultural 60s we know.. one thing that didn’t travel -…

60’s took the inward turn that Margaret Meade tried to get in the 40’s – but it turned in so much that it quit talking – because of that turn inward.. we have limited language to reach across our social divide.. (stopped talking about race/class/et al.. turned away from public critique of difficulties.. ie: if we just fix ourselves we will all be well.. )

howard – this could be a trilogy.. seeing another convergence – infusion of african american music, meets the children.. rave, burning man, google (equivalent of consumerism of production of 50s),..

28 – inside google – work with whole.. work with self.. but still those working in kitchen not making living wage.. easier to ignore that…


re wire ness


Howard posts on fb, feb 2014:

This is a VERY interesting and previously untold history. Before multimedia, raves, multi-screen desktops, they were all made possible through a concerted effort by Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, the Bauhaus, Black Mountain College, John Cage, the USIS, Buckminster Fuller, the Museum of Modern Art, that started as a response to fascism.

roos of multimedia

first chapter

For that reason, members and friends of the committee advocated a
turn away from single- source mass media and toward multi- image, multi–
sound- source media environments—systems that I will call surrounds.

In 1940s, social scientists agreed that the democratic person was a freestanding individual who could act independently among other individuals. Democratic polity, in turn, depended on the ability of such people to reason, to choose, and above all to recognize others as being human beings like themselves.

Family of Man (360 guy?) visitors free to move, but only w/in environment that had been carefully shaped.

spinach or rock ness…

… even so,…clearly representing the rise of a managerial mode of control: a mode in which people might be free to choose their experiences, but only from a menu written by experts.

1. democratic person – very center of a democratic society

2. find a kind of media to produce that personality – a kind of media that allows us to make choices.. 

c dot app ness

individuals acting in concert..

networked individualism ness

early fb rhetoric:  surround us with media to make ourselves

a utopian 60’s – actually from the 40’s

– – – – – –

Fred’s conversation with Clay Shirky.. dec 2013:

turner and shirky

360 comes to help create space to facilitate the democratic personality

clay – we’ve been asking for 40 yrs… what the heck happened between 64 and 67..

If mass media made fascists, what kinds of media could American leaders make that would help create democratic persons and a democratic kind of unity?



Enter the Committee for National Morale. The Committee was led by Arthur Upham Pope, a Persian art historian, and it included 60 of America’s most interesting thinkers—people like anthropologists. Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict, Mead’s husband, Gregory Bateson, the psychologists Gordon Allport and Kurt Lewin, a refugee from Germany. Together they theorized a new kind of media, a multi-media that could surround individuals and allow them to practice the perceptual skills on which democracy depended: the skills of selection, of integration, of knitting together diverse perspectives into a uniquely individual identity that Committee members called the “democratic personality.”This kind of personality was open to difference: open to racial difference, open to sexual difference. It was the opposite of the fascist personality. And it was the basis of a democratic mode of unity, a way of being together and at the same time remaining individual.

The other track follows the development of those same environments for the liberation of individual selves and the making of democratic community in places like Black Mountain College right up into the happenings of the 1960s. It ends in 1967 at the first Human Be-In, where people danced in Golden Gate Park and saw themselves as free, liberal individuals, diverse, racially mixed, sexually mixed, and open in every way. The Human Be-In helped bring us San Francisco’s Summer of Love and the high counterculture of the late 1960s. But the book shows that it was also the endpoint of the movement against fascism that Margaret Mead and the Bauhaus artists spawned.


To give you a sense of why, I want you to remember that, in February of 1939, 22,000 Americans filled Madison Square Garden to rally in support of fascism. Organizers hung giant banners on the wall that said, “Stop Jewish Domination of Christian America.” That’s America, 1939. In October that year hundreds of people marched down 86th Street in New York City with swastikas and American flags. This was in Life magazine and now it is almost totally forgotten. 

20 min – counselors offices were called adjustment centers… which seemed nicer than the fascist mentality.. but now we see – we probably got a little to adjusted (to the system)

in need of detox

23 min

CS: In The Democratic Surround the fear of fascism is the original motivation for the development of new media strategies. At first, this is underwritten by the US government. By the 1960s the source of fear is often the US government itself. How and when did that turn happen?

FT: The short answer is: when the draft was instituted and we went to war in Vietnam. The more complete answer is actually a story about the long 1950s. In the ‘50s we moved away from a robust, pro-liberal, anti-Communism that was grounded in an earlier anti-fascism toward a consumerist alternative. 

We wanted them to experience choice in a commercial as well as a political vein. That turn toward mingling consumption and politics took place in the ‘50s and was available as a strategy to folks in the 1960s. While that was going on, some of the same people who had been working to promote the ideology of choice abroad—Walt Rostow, folks like this—were working at the Center for International Studies at MIT on the ideas that would become the foundation of America’s war inVietnam. Some of the same people who were fighting for a liberated, individuated society that would be diverse racially, diverse sexually, slowly but surely turned into the people who brought us Vietnam. You can watch it happen in the archives. And it’s terrifying.

The fantasy goes like this: If I express myself, the world will change. That is not correct. I was so angry to see Occupy focus on expression while the Tea Party focused on elections. Who is driving our policy now? It’s not Occupy. Sure, we got that phrase, “the 99 percent.” That’s great. It helps frame the debate. But framing debates is totally insufficient.

The business of the individual is to be a free, articulate participant among others. That’s not enough. Folks who buy into that vision have failed to do the institution-building that actually generates change. That’s a negative legacy on the Left, and it’s one that all sorts of New Media companies take advantage of. Google and Facebook are counting on it. They issue an invitation that is very profitable to them: Come connect with your friends. Hook up. Connect. Connect. Connect. Connect. But: Don’t build institutions. Don’t regulate us. We are the key institutions of free expression, free innovation—not the government. Never mind that it was government-sponsored research that brought us the Internet in the first place.

The threats are different today than they were in the 1940s and 1950s. Back then, American intellectuals and artists feared hierarchical institutions and centralized bureaucracies as tools of fascism. They tended to forget that those same structures helped bring America the New Deal. Today, many on the Left—and many in the corporate sphere—are still pushing the pursuit of individual satisfaction and the development of individual-centered networks as keys to democratic unity. The trouble is, what we face today is not the fascism of the 1930s. What we face is the dissolution of the middle class and the predatory accumulation of wealth by a tiny fraction of our population. What we face is the failure to band together to take action against climate change. These are the kinds of challenges that individuals gathered together in expression-centered networks are uniquely ill-equipped to meet. 

We need to do the institutional work that builds free societies over the long haul. And if we don’t, the Tea Party will.


i was always told that the 60’s were the 30’s again..

37 min – the family of man – cracked open alternative perspectives

50 min – grand theft auto 5 – such a high degree of choice it feels like freedom – totally structured from the outside.. 

1:02 – courage – it’s really hard to take public stands esp when everybody around you tells you to take that tight professional stand that will help you move forward in life  …it’s hard to reach out to ..people who are unlike ourselves.. tech for reaching to people like us – amazing.. tech for reaching those unlike us – not so much. that’s what the family of man tried to do. that’s our challenge now.. stop focusing on the improvement of self and start focusing on building of a polity out of people who are different than ourselves..

a people experiment..?


link twitter

link facebook

find/follow Fred:

wikipedia small

Fred on stanford site:

fred turner site

the democratic surround

book links to amazon

“This is the true story of how a small group of artists and anthropologists set out to create an alternative to fascism during World War II—and ended up setting the stage for the consumer-driven, media-saturated world we inhabit today. A gripping, well-balanced, and surprising history.”    –Douglas Rushkoff



democratic surround highlights on kindle

if mass media tended to turn the psyches of their audiences in authoritarian directions? Was there a mode of communication that could produce more democratic individuals? A more democratic polity? And for that matter, what was a democratic person?

Yaacov – what is demo ed? it’s asking that every day – ie: bravery to change your mind

the surround clearly represented the rise of a managerial mode of a control: a mode in which people might be free to choose their experiences, but only from a menu written by experts.

partial freedom is no freedom, ie: spinach or rock ness

In The Family of Man, Edward Steichen hoped to surround museum visitors with images and so free them to see a whole world of people who were simultaneously unlike and yet like themselves.

one ness. no one the same ness. discrimination as equity – to infinity ness

Cage’s performance shared their psychological ambition. He, too, hoped to surround his audience with sights and sounds that might free them from allegiance to more authoritarian modes of communication—and, by implication, from authoritarian political systems too.

spaces of permission ness

In Le Bon’s view, a leader could analyze the hidden desires of the individuals in a group and speak to them in a way that would undermine their ability to reason—that is, their “conscious personality.” Once exposed to the leader’s messages and to the contagious enthusiasm of the group, the individual would enter “a special state” like that of “the hypnotized individual . . . in the hands of the hypnotizer.

i need you to wake up

The Nazi type of morale resulted in “conformity” but not in an “inner strength” that might outlive the regime itself, he argued.15 Nazi morale might have looked like the sort of national unity Americans needed, but it wasn’t: it was too brittle.

sounds like our push in institution Ed for grit.. when what we need is true grit.. (difference if it’s a grit for battle.. or a grit for the thing you can’t not do..  the 2nd is way way stronger.. even if the 1st might appear so)

Thus freedom for the personality may be viewed as the crucial issue of a democratic society. . . .

free\dom ness – none of us ness

Nazis longed for nothing more than to obey, and so to lose their individuality in the great mass of the crowd. They wanted only to follow and to attack those who wouldn’t or couldn’t also obey. Under the Nazis, the Germans had given up their powers of intellectual discrimination, of moral choice, of psychological independence. Above all, they had ceased to tolerate racial and cultural differences.

institution of Ed

In place of instrumental, message-driven modes of communication, they developed a theory of what I will call surrounds—arrays of images and words built into environments that their audiences could enter freely, act spontaneously within, and leave at will.

spaces of permission – mooc/audit thinking

Does not the implementation of a defined direction call for control, and does not control—measured, calculated, definite control; control which really attains its ends—by its very existence invalidate democracy, necessarily raising up some men to exercise the control and degrade all others to be its victims?  – M Mead

How would we rig the maze or problem-box so that the anthropomorphic rat shall obtain a repeated and reinforced impression of his own free-will?’

iterations of self. emergence of us. via a people experiment..

As Mead put it, “They go out from the doors of the Museum believing in one of the foundations of democracy, that it is possible, by slow, honest, exact study to find out more about man and the world in which he lives. For an hour or so they have been able to trust their eyes and let their minds rove over materials which have not been arranged to impress, to convert, to push them around, but merely to tell them as much of the truth as is now known, and that quietly.

“The primary need at the moment is . . . to free the individual citizen from his fear of being moved, to restore to the individual his belief that HE CAN MAKE CHOICES, HE IS NOT JUST A HELPLESS MUSICAL INSTRUMENT ON WHICH THE PROPAGANDIST PLAYS WHATEVER TUNE HE WISHES” [capitalization original].

set people free – to believing – it is legal to think for themselves..

In other words, chance methods of composition freed sounds from the need to obey the will of a dictatorial composer or even to follow the norms of an oppressive culture.

He described his new method less as a way of organizing sound than as a way of leveling power relationships between people by organizing sound.

What was the alternative to this implicit fascism? For the audience, it was to hear an array of sounds whose interrelationships could not be predicted beforehand but, rather, had to be made on the spot by the listeners themselves. For the performer, it was to cease to obey the commands of invisible authoritarians and to enter instead into a state of “being alert in an indeterminate situation.

the composer needed to develop a structure within which every person and every sound might be wholly itself, independent and free.

Artaud had long advocated a theater in which, as he put it, “the actors are not performing / they are doing.

mary catherine bateson – getting away from proving ness – and that which is observed is changed…

Dwight MacDonald, editor of the left-wing journal Politics, put it, “There is something askew with a society in which vast numbers of citizens can be organized to create a horror like The Bomb without even knowing they are doing it.

Americans had been asked to turn off their reason, to act on their most violent impulses, and to do so as a unified, uniform mass. When they returned home to the United States, they brought with them not only their recollections of the fighting but the specter of their own resemblance to the enemy.

It will be a person-centered society in which no type of person can impose his pattern of selfhood upon other persons.”

Each gave voice to a widespread hope that social and technological engineering could enable Americans to manage themselves.

2 needs and a cure to self-organizing ness

we shall use social engineering to solve the problem of setting up the conditions of freedom but not to determine what men shall do with freedom when they get it. Indeed, we are arguing here that the chief uses of freedom are defeated by those who set up the conditions and try also to determine its content.”

pbl, cc, eve parents who don’t want to – via krishnamurti –  so c dot app ness- because tech is non judgmental – no agenda ness – can take in too big to know data – and organize it for connections.. – help us find our tribe.. help us rattle out brain


In 1950, UNESCO published a complete report of the conference edited by Hadley Cantril and entitled Tensions that Cause Wars.

Even Max Horkheimer, who at times during the conference protested the psychologization of what he believed were also economic and political conflicts, argued that the Nazis would never have come to power had German parents not turned the personalities of their children in authoritarian directions. “Men . . . who have not been browbeaten in childhood,” he wrote, “will not be driven by irrational anxieties . . . [to] aggressive nationalism.

the f scale – testing for vulnerability to fascism. adorno

erich fromm – research in 1920s

 Those with a broadly antidemocratic personality structure were unable to recognize other people as individuals, but saw them only as types.

no one the same

If potential fascists showed a psychological propensity to give themselves over to the will of another, to dissolve their own desires into those of the throng, the democratic psyche longed for a different kind of intimacy. The democratic personality enjoyed “a degree of detachment which enables the individual to sense the feelings and viewpoints of others in the life of the entire group.”

the zoom dance.. as a means to see better. nationality: human.

2 books that defined debates on nature of american society through the 50s:

The first was Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s best-selling polemic, The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom, in 1949.

The result should be a balance of “individualism which does not wall man off from community” and “community which sustains but does not suffocate the individual.

Schlesinger. “We must commit ourselves to it with all our vigor in all its dimensions: the struggle within the world against communism and fascism; the struggle within our country against oppression and stagnation; the struggle within ourselves against pride and corruption: nor can engagement in one dimension exclude responsibility for another.

 – The second – In 1950, Riesman’s widely acclaimed The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character challenged the confidence of The Vital Center even as it echoed its preoccupation with personality

Even as such an orientation freed individual Americans to make their own way in the world, it knit them ever more tightly into the systems of production and consumption within which they worked.

In the early spring of 1955, more than a quarter of a million people streamed through the doors of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. They came to immerse themselves in The Family of Man.

In other words, even as it freed Americans from the massifying effects of totalitarianism and its media, The Family of Man invited them to adjust themselves to a softer but equally pervasive system of management—a system pioneered, in part, in Victor D’Amico’s classrooms.

By January 1943, the Museum of Modern Art had mounted an entire exhibition on the theme, called Art Education in Wartime. In a draft press release, museum officials argued that art educators were helping to win the war from kindergarten through college by helping children avoid becoming authoritarians.

“The war has created new and greater tensions which will cause their share of mental and emotional maladjustments,” wrote D’Amico in 1943. “If the therapeutic value of art is employed in a plan for re-education [of veterans], America may be spared a phenomenal rise in mental illness and emotional disturbance.

for many in the late 1940s and early 1950s, it also meant working to raise the sort of open-minded, empathetic, emotionally flexible children who would not start the kinds of wars they themselves had just survived

Parents became childlike once again, while their children enjoyed managing themselves within an environment established for the purpose. In short, the classroom became a world without a dictator, unified in its pursuit of individual diversity

Fascist-minded subjects show, on a deeper level, no genuine attachments to the parents, whom they accept in a fairly conventionalized and externalized way. It is this configuration of submissiveness and coldness which more than anything else defines the potential fascist of our time.

In this setting children needed to learn not only how to make art, but how to manage themselves in terms set by largely invisible others.

I guess in art you can be pretty free,” said Mrs. Kawachi. “Yes,” replied Victor D’Amico, “that’s what art’s for.”

Many lauded Steichen as a sort of author—speaking in what he and reviewers alike called the “universal language” of photography—and the exhibition as a text, an essay even.

Eisenhower and leaders of American industry worked closely together to establish American goods as intermediaries between the craven, earthly desire for things and more abstract human longings for social justice.

what? consumerism as glue?

Americans had been promoting the overthrow of communist regimes without understanding that principles alone could not sustain democracies, Potter claimed. The democratic character of individuals and nations depended on their collective wealth. For that reason, he implied, Americans should promote not only political democracy, but consumer capitalism

Indoctrination was the tool of totalitarianism; democracy required self-discovery

The real problem is to free the child of his clichés or imitated mannerisms and to help him discover his own way of seeing and expressing.”

In the early years of World War II, Margaret Mead had linked American individualism and American national morale.

What better way is there to develop a feeling of brotherhood among nations than to stimulate the creativeness of their children?” asked the reporter

free to become ever more themselves and, at the same time, ever more collaborative and interdependent

At the global level, the United States promised to enclose its allies in a “free world,” watched over by a benevolent, all-seeing military and guided by disinterested American experts

In April 1957, exhibition planners convened a two-day conference at MIT’s Center for International Studies (CENIS). The center had been founded in 1951 with a grant from the Ford Foundation and received substantial secret funding from the CIA

Like Fuller’s dome, Stone’s circular arena modeled an American landscape open to roaming. Stone even built some forty entrances and exits, so that visitors could come and go as they pleased.41 The interior of the pavilion had no clear beginning and no clear end

rhizome ness

The Children’s Creative Center allowed visitors who peered through its windows to practice monitoring—not instructing or indoctrinating, but watching, encouraging, and so helping to set the boundary conditions for their children’s performances.

practicing grandmother ness.. along side ness.. usefully pre-occupied/ignorant ness..

In each case, visitors were enjoined to express themselves—imaginatively, through identification, or mechanically and imaginatively, by voting or picking stocks. As they did, they simultaneously produced themselves as new, creative citizens of a massively abundant world and practiced engaging with democratic politics, market capitalism, and the progressive child-rearing techniques that were thought to produce people who would thrive in those systems

oh my. .. express by voting.. and picking stocks?

They both imagined themselves as and, for an instant at least, became highly individuated members of a seemingly egalitarian society—an Americanized global community whose stability was guaranteed by military forces arrayed invisibly far beyond the circle of the pavilion’s walls.


Reporters tripped over themselves to celebrate the show when it came to their cities. “I am writing this under the spell of an exhibit that could change the face of South Africa if it were seen and felt and understood by the right people,” exclaimed a reviewer for The Johannesburg Sunday Times, entirely typically. “No human being seeing it and understanding its message could ever hold race hate in his heart again.”

For the staff of the USIA, the exhibition was a godsend. With its emphasis on global humanism, the racial diversity in its imagery, and its utter absence of pro-American bluster, the exhibition seemed to have little if anything to do with propaganda. Visitors might even forget that the United States was sponsoring the show (an occurrence that American embassy officials routinely took steps to prevent). When they did notice American sponsorship, USIA officials hoped that visitors would associate their own desires for peace, familial intimacy, and egalitarian community with the guiding international hand of the United States.

More specifically, it was to turn Soviet citizens toward the creative self-expression and self-development that characterized the democratic personality—in this case, through consumption—and at the same time toward an egalitarian mode of unity based on individualism, that ostensibly characterized the United States.

through consumption…?

Even as these systems offered to improve Soviet understanding of American life, most generated records of visitors’ opinions about America, the exhibition, and the Soviet Union

Fred – saying computer preprogrammed/guides with thousands of answers to questions .. but more interested in what questions they were asking..

Nelson explained that the dome would be the first building visitors entered, and would be designed to overwhelm them with highly credible facts and images from the United States. These would help persuade the Soviets that Americans could be trusted to tell the truth

so flooding people with highly credible facts persuades trust?

Together these interactions allowed Soviets to express themselves and, at the same time, rendered their psyches available to surveillance.

2 forms of control: 1-they were offered spinach or rock; 2-they were monitored – raised eyebrow and agenda ness.. ?

They listed the questions asked of RAMAC. (Number one in the first week: “How much do cigarettes cost?” Number two: “What is meant by the American dream?”

A society linked by the intercommunications of independent individuals was a far cry from one organized by the top-down dictates of a totalitarian regime

might tech do better facilitating.. and keep from judgment and agenda ness?

In Wiener’s view, communication was not simply a matter of exchange; it was the essence of social and natural order.

Only by surrounding the eye with new images and offering the individual the chance to link them together—that is, by asking both artists and viewers to speak a new language of vision—could designers begin to help individuals become psychologically whole 

strange – because here it is again… assumption that fixing requires given/prescribe images… even with the silence ness of john cage in the room..

First, they asked individual viewers to select among a variety of images on display and integrate their selections into a single, individualized internal picture. In this way, according to Gestalt theory at least, viewers could experience true individuation—an experience that the USIA saw as central to undermining the massified psychology of Soviet communism.

yeah.. that.. over and over.. that. that’s individuation? that’s pbl as we know it.. right? partial freedom is not freedom ness..

soviets found this utterly compelling…  yet most compelling was chance to interact with russion speaking american guides.. who were allowed to think on their feet and to acknowledge problems…   is that reality?

people drawn to people. that’s it. no? people drawn to awake people.

The USIA had adapted the aesthetics and the ideals of the surround to the work of reorienting the desires of foreign nationals away from the temptations of communism and toward the carefully managed consumer society of America.

so – we modeled what it’s like to dote on a kid.. to offer extrinsic reward.. and clothe it as safety/love/humanity.. ?


aug 2014:

interview with Henry Jenkins (part 1) and Fred about democratic surround:

The members of the Committee didn’t know how to build these environments. But in the late 1930s, a generation of Bauhaus artists had just fled to the United States from Germany.


They created the spaces that the American social scientists had dreamed of – spaces in which Americans could practice moving their bodies individually together, looking high and low at the world around them, and arriving at a new mode of political unity in the process.


At the same time, artists such as John Cage opened up the soundscape and the world of performance, with an equally explicit desire to engage their audiences in a world of aesthetic democracy – a place in which every sound, no matter how lowly, would be equal to every other, a world in which the European hierarchies of the symphony no longer held sway. 


When they headed out to build their communes, the New Communalists of the 1960s tucked books by their parents’ generation into their backpacks. They read Norbert Weiner, Buckminster Fuller, Erich Fromm, Karen Horney, Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson – and I wondered why. When I went back to those books, I saw the appeal. These thinkers were far more radical than we remember. – 

– – – –

interview with Henry Jenkins (part 2) and Fred about democratic surround:

Bayer and his team wanted viewers to practice doing the linking work themselves. They were to engage, even interact with the whole pattern of images and not just any one message they might contain. 


Cage is asking his audience to see that they are surrounded by the sounds of their environment. He’s asking them to knit those sounds together in the way that would be most meaningful for them. No piano player, no conductor, no musical dictator demands their attention. The audience, like the sounds themselves, are meant to be free, interacting with one another on equal terms. 

The trouble is, these new modes for making liberated citizens also meant a new mode of management. In each case I’ve studied, a team of experts built an environment and selected an array – an often very rich array – of media for audiences to engage. Audience members moved freely, selected what mattered to them, congregated, dispersed – and based on all the archival records I’ve seen, many really did experience themselves as free in these spaces. But of course they weren’t. Or not completely. They may have had more control of their bodies and their senses and their reasoning faculties than, say, the swaying viewers of Disney’s Circarama, but the visitors to surrounds inhabited a thoroughly curated world. They could interact, but the terms of their interaction had been set for them, before they even entered the rooms. 


The modes of interactivity and multi-media storytelling that empower audiences to make their own unique sense of the media around them usually invite them to make sense of that media specifically – media which have often been pre-selected and pre-digested for them.

spinach or rock ness in ed – pbl et al

I’m hoping that if we can look back into the 1940s and the 1950s, we can see a world in which it is possible to work for radical political transformation within and around the most powerful institutions of our day – including the media and the government.


Some of the best and brightest social scientists of the 1950s and 1960s, working with the very best of intentions, helped mastermind a national atrocity. 


I do see that the lion’s share of funding from the government now goes to STEM disciplines. I think that happens because the outcomes of training in those areas can be so clearly linked to things Congressman care about – jobs, profits, economic growth. But the power of STEM per se isn’t new. The space race and the Cold War drove research in that area to a level of funding and creative abandon that would be hard to imagine today except perhaps in the privately funded stratospheres of Google and Apple and Microsoft. Even with government funding down, the social sciences remain intellectually pretty hardy.


– – – – –

interview with Henry Jenkins (part 3) and Fred about democratic surround:

I think that one of the legacies of the Vietnam era for our generation has been a fear that engaging with state policy or trying to directly influence public life will somehow harm either our ideas or the state itself.


But it also travelled because Mead and others like her were not afraid to mix it up with people in power.

Today we need to do two things I think: first, campus-based writers like you and I need to keep trying to speak outward, to the world beyond the walls, in plain English. Second, we need to work with and if necessary build new kinds of institutions to support the kind of society we want. New social networks, new peer-to-peer collaborations are nowhere near enough. What we need are places where people who are unlike one another can gather and work together, slowly, over time. We are far too entranced with the power of networks today. What we need are not better ways to contact others like ourselves, but better ways to work across our differences. What we need are not better networks, but better institutions. 


interview dec 2014 in paris – digital utopia:

today – info machines can make everything manageable.. a vision that kind of underlies google..

ww2: idea against fascism.. late 30s early 40s.. fear that mass media had a 1-many structure that turned people into fascists… americans are wondering how to do propaganda on our own people w/o turning them into fascists… 2 ideas emerge: 1) democratic personality – every nation has it’s own style  2) media had power to shape personality… we need a form of multi-media (as opposed to mass) to produce democratic personality… so get bauhaus artists to help induce that balance

1) democratic person. 2) geographically distributed media shape your personality

1\ cybernetics – theory of info systems.. but also world as info system.. late 40s early 50s.. weiner from mit:.. digital media as leveling world.. a way to manage world that is deeply freeing.. people as computers… but free computers… learning machines.. opposite of mechanistic machines.. once we accept that we ourselves are info systems.. we can be free.

2\ counter culture has 2 wings: 1\ new left – do politics in order to change politics; 2\ new communilist – politics is the problem, we don’t want to do govt/states/parties.. make visible the invisible systems of info that surround us.. manage those.. come to unspoken agreement.. very congenial to think of selves of their own systems…

but also opened door to our world… we imagine we are alone w/our computers.. but we are never alone with our computers.. in and out

a world originally imagined of free democratic political choice.. but has become a world of carefully managed consumer choice.. much more limited democratic choice..

i’d like to remember that moment of ww2 – 40s.. bring us to a state of individual info systems that is not narcissist, not self-centered..  that takes self only as a beginning – for reaching out to others unlike ourselves.. .. i think we can recover that vision


bauhaus, the family of manjohn cage, margaret mead, gregory bateson, black mtn college, moma, unesco


money ness



Accelerationism and its discontents: @publicbooks…

Srnicek and Williams believe that emerging technologies have laid the foundation for the kind of egalitarian social world once promised by Lenin himself. To bring that world into being, they argue, we need not to resist but to accelerate the development of new technologies and the spread of capitalism.


The first of these is that capitalism is omnivorous. Srnicek and Williams note that, as Marx pointed out, capitalism devours almost all social forms in its way. This means that *efforts to create local enclaves of, say, ethical consumerism or horizontal, extra-market social relations, are ultimately bound to fail. For all their emphasis on bottom-up reform, such efforts can do little to prevent the commodification of experience, the expansion of inequality, and the ever-extended need to turn social life toward financially profitable ends.

unless.. perhaps.. we design to make capitalism/money-as-os ness.. irrelevant.. ie: hard to devour something that isn’t there.. ie: imagine no *efforts to create local enclaves of ethical consumerism or horizontal extra-market social relations..


this is where Srnicek and Williams take an unexpected turn. Rather than try to resist the forces of technology and capitalism, they urge us to embrace them. Or more specifically, they argue that in fact the *only way to escape the maw of the consumer society is to accelerate the engines driving it. The left must do what the neoliberal right has done: it must celebrate the liberating tendencies of capitalism; it must take advantage of the ever-more-social affordances of new technologies; and it must help the world imagine both as sources of social improvement.

*accelerate – as in leap – to a nother way….ie: be brave enough to disengage from any measuring of transactions..


In the hands of neoliberal ideologues, for instance, Schumpeter’s notion of “creative destruction” becomes something that individuals can do (as entrepreneurs), that companies can do (through innovation), and that even whole economies experience (in cycles of growth and recession).


For Srnicek and Williams, the central problem with capitalism is not the inequality it produces, nor the ways it intersects with longstanding patterns of racism and nationalism, but rather the hoary problem of labor. For generations, they write, the left has “sought to liberate humanity from the drudgery of work, the dependence on wage labor, and submission of our lives to a boss.” New technologies allow us to build “a postcapitalist and post-work platform upon which multiple ways of living could emerge and flourish.”


We have authentic selves, they argue, and to work for wages, we must leave our authentic desires at home.


If this sounds more than a little like a marketing campaign for Uber, it should. This is the same logic that drives the rhetoric of the sharing economy. And that should make us nervous. New digital platforms really are making work patterns more flexible and automation really is replacing (some) drudgery. Yet, marketers’ claims notwithstanding, they have hardly brought us a new era of social sharing. Instead, they’ve marketized ever smaller segments of time and transformed formerly private resources (such as your car) into potential sources of profit.


As Noys points out, these first accelerationists did much more than fail to spark a populist revolution; they actually helped legitimate the technologies of domination in place today.


For all its talk of a technology-enabled socialist utopia, accelerationism actually offers little more than a steep dive down a nihilist rabbit hole.

Here Noys picks up on an essential paradox of accelerationism, and in fact of many ostensibly left-leaning, technology-embracing social movements. The same devices that are slowly choking off our ability to act in the world without their help have also offered us extraordinary pleasures.


Yet as the Futurists themselves have taught us, the dream of machines that will speed us away from everyday life can just as easily open the road to fascism as to democracy. In their rush to celebrate the benefits of automation, Srnicek and Williams have forgotten this history. Lenin may have turned to Taylorism to ease the lives of peasants, and the founders of the CCRU may have embraced Schumpeterian creative destruction in order to experience a technocentric form of ecstasy. Yet neither approach substantially improved the prospects for a more egalitarian social world.


the problem of politics writ large remains. How can we build a more just, more egalitarian society when our devices already surround us with so many of the personalized delights we might want such a society to offer? Meetings are boring. Talking to people unlike ourselves is hard. How can we turn away from the mediasphere long enough to rediscover the pleasures of that difficult work? And how can we sustain it when we do?

To these kinds of questions, the accelerationists have no answers.

let’s try this: a nother way

ie: hosting-life-bits via self-talk as data


“Fascism and The Historical Irony of Facebook’s “Fake News” Problem” by @kimmaicutler

Original Tweet:

How did the country that brought us Goethe and Beethoven bring us Hitler?

Many Americans blamed the mass media.


If they used mass media, they risked turning Americans into authoritarians. But if they didn’t, they wondered, how would they achieve the national unity they needed to fight fascism?

There was one school of thought that said, “We’ll just copy [Joseph] Goebbels. We’ll de-program Americans later [if they turn totalitarian].”

But there were about 60 American intellectuals who were part of something called the Committee for National Morale who had another idea. These were people like anthropologists Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead, psychologist Gordon Allport, and the curator Arthur Upham Pope.


They dreamed of media that would surround you, that would require you to make your own choices and use your individual perception to define the images that mattered most to you. It was meant to be a kind of media environment within which you could make your own decisions, and so become more individually unique. At the same time, it put you in the company of others doing the same thing. The environment was designed to help forge both individual identity and collective unity simultaneously.


Over the next 50 years, through a series of twists and turns, the democratic media dreams of the Committee for National Morale actually set the stage for Facebook, Twitter and other kinds of peer-to-peer media.

The irony is that with Donald Trump, we are seeing a medium and a set of tactics designed to confront fascism being used to produce a new authoritarianism.


Trump has use the media to take over an existing state apparatus.


The multi-media images in “The Democratic Surround” provide a glimpse of the kind of perceptual world that media thinkers believed would make us less racist and more embracing of our differences. It’s a world in which we’re meant to practice looking at and identifying with others who are not like ourselves.


multi-image environments as part of trade fairs or exhibitions in the belief that they would give people the ability to practice the modes of perception that democracy depends upon

math as diff perception – roger et al


The second way the surround aesthetic has come down to us and helped drive the rise of social media is through the art world. Thanks to John Cage, it became the basis of Happenings in New York in the late 1950s. Cage believed that concerts and symphonies embodied the hierarchies of old Europe and were essentially exercises in domination by aural means. He knew the Bauhaus refugees well. And so he did with sound what they had done with pictures. He designed sonic surrounds that would open people up to listening to sounds around them and choosing the ones that were most valuable to them.


then to stewart brand and.. If they just built the right geodesic domes, took the right LSD, and surrounded themselves with the right music and light shows, lots of folks believed they could establish a new and better society. This society would be based on a shared mindset, a shared consciousness that technology would help create.

This idea of shared consciousness became a conceptual foundation of the Internet as it emerged into public view.

Stewart Brand and the people who were building communes in the 1960s reimagined computers as technologies of liberation. They turned the dreams of the commune movement — which by then had failed — into fantasies that the Internet could be an “electronic frontier.” The computer would now be a “personal” technology — that is, a tool like LSD for the transformation of consciousness. And the net would link these technology-enabled minds together in “virtual community.

The counterculture’s utopian vision of technology still lingers in the air when, say, Ev Williams founds Twitter, or even when Mark Zuckerberg declares his desire to connect everyone on the planet through Facebook.

huge.. looking at intention..


If multi-media was such a democratizing force, why is mass media still here?

One of the things we see with Trump and the Twitter-sphere is that when new technologies come on the scene, they don’t replace old technologies. They layer onto older technologies.

Twitter and its liberating potential is already mass mediated. It’s already commercial. When Donald tweets, he isn’t just tweeting to a general populace. He’s generating stories for CBS and NBC, and for that matter, Facebook. He’s generating stories that create an entire media sphere on their own. That is the source of his power. He is using the old fascist charisma, but he’s doing it in a media environment in which the social and the commercial, the individual and the mass, are already completely entwined.


I think “fake news’ is a really important phenomenon. It’s rumor, and one of the things social media do best is accelerate rumors. Social media radically disable fact checking. They make it easy for people to make up stories that can travel at the speed of light. Social media also show that the original idea that the Internet could be a neutral dissemination medium for news was just a fantasy.

I’m not at all sure how firms should manage the new situation, let alone how the state should intervene. “Fake news” is only part of the problem. The real problem is actually more of a structural problem. Media firms in lots of different subsets need to make money on advertising. When you are dependent on advertising, controversy is good. Truth ceases to matter. It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. What matters is that it gets a lot of attention.

fake ness


It’s the turn from fact that makes fascism possible. If they turn away from reasoning altogether, they can turn toward feeling like part of a body following a charismatic leader.


we can’t pretend that engineers are not legislators of public discourse anymore.


If Donald Trump is a fascist, he’s a fascist for this time and this country, because the source of his power is his ability to manage and grab attention.


fb share by Howard:

I’ve had very few mentors. Fred Turner was and is one of them.

Don’t Be Evil

Fred Turner on Utopias, Frontiers, and Brogrammers

We sat down with him to discuss how Silicon Valley sees itself, and what it means when the tech industry says it wants to save the world.

The other—and this is where the tech world gets its mojo—is what I’ve called the New Communalists. Between 1966 and 1973, we had the largest wave of commune building in American history. These people were involved in turning away from politics, away from bureaucracy, and toward a world in which they could change their consciousness. They believed small-scale technologies would help them do that. They wanted to change the world by creating new tools for consciousness transformation.

This is the tradition that drives claims by companies like Google and Facebook that they are making the world a better place by connecting people. It’s a kind of connectionist politics. Like the New Communalists, they are imagining a world that’s completely leveled, in which hierarchy has been dissolved. They’re imagining a world that’s fundamentally without politics.

It’s worth pointing out that this tradition, at least in the communes, has a terrible legacy. The communes were, ironically, extraordinarily conservative.

*When you take away bureaucracy and hierarchy and politics, you take away the ability to negotiate the distribution of resources on explicit terms. And you replace it with charisma, with cool, with shared but unspoken perceptions of power. You replace it with the cultural forces that guide our behavior in the absence of rules.

So suddenly you get these charismatic men running communes—and women in the back having babies and putting bleach in the water to keep people from getting sick. Many of the communes of the 1960s were among the most racially segregated, heteronormative, and authoritarian spaces I’ve ever looked at.

perhaps.. *unless we replace it with all the voices.. tech as it could be.. have/need ness

So the New Communalists failed, in a big way. By 1973, virtually all of the communes had disappeared or dissolved.

Through the 1970s and into the early 1980s, most of the folks who used to be on the communes are still in the Bay Area. And the tech world is bubbling up around them. They need work, so many of them start working in the tech world.

The folks associated with the commune movement—particularly Stewart Brand and the people formerly associated with the Whole Earth Catalog—begin to reimagine computers as the tools of countercultural change that they couldn’t make work in the 1960s.

Stewart Brand actually calls computers “the new LSD.” The fantasy is that they will be tools for the transformation of consciousness—that now, finally, we’ll be able to do with the computer what we couldn’t do with LSD and communes. We’ll be able to connect people through online systems and build new infrastructure around them

let’s try tech as it could be

At other companies, I think it’s very sincere. I’ve spent a lot of time at Facebook lately, and I think they sincerely want to build what Mark Zuckerberg calls a more connected world. Whether their practice matches their beliefs, I don’t know.


There’s more talk about the dark side of technology: surveillance, data mining, facial recognition software, “fake news,” and so on. We’ve seen more resistance to the basic utopian line. Where do you think that comes from?

I think you can track it directly to the Snowden revelations.

..In terms of the public conversation, Snowden is when people became aware of surveillance and began to see it as a problem.


Burning Man is to the tech world what the nineteenth-century Protestant church was to the factory.

In the nineteenth century, if you lived in a small factory town, you’d work six days a week through Saturday. Then on Sunday, you’d go to church, and the bosses would sit up front, the middle managers would sit right behind them, and all the workers would sit in the back. You’d literally rehearse the order of the factory. You’d show, in the church, how you oriented all of your labor toward the glory of God.


Burning Man is the very model of the Puritan ideal.

When I went to Burning Man, that’s what struck me: I am in the desert. The desert of Israel, from the Bible, under the eye of heaven, and everything I do shall be meaningful. That’s a Protestant idea, a Puritan idea, a tech idea, and a commune idea. All of those come together at Burning Man and that’s one of the reasons I’m fascinated by the place.

Burning Man has many problems, of course, and I am distressed by many pieces of it. However, there was a moment I had during my first visit when I went two miles out in the desert and I looked back at the city and there was a sign that looked just like a gas station sign and it was turning, the way gas station signs do. It could’ve been a Gulf or Citgo sign, but it wasn’t. It was a giant pink heart. And for just a moment, I got to imagine that my suburbs back in Silicon Valley were ruled over not by Gulf and Citgo, but by love.

That’s a thread running through Burning Man. And it’s a thread that I treasure. In the midst of all the other things that made me crazy.


One of the great myths of the counterculture is that it wasn’t engaged with the military-industrial complex. That’s true of the New Left—but it’s not true of the New Communalists. The communalists were engaged with cybernetics in a big way. They bought deeply into the hope that through LSD, they would attend to new psychological frontiers and build new social frontiers.

..Nobody thinks they live on a frontier anymore.

However, inside the tech world, there are still people microdosing with LSD. There are still people experimenting with polyamorous relationships. There are still people pursuing the intersection of consciousness change and new social structures. And those worlds are still quite tightly intertwined with the legacy of the counterculture. So although the language of the new frontier has gone, and the frontier itself has been closed off by surveillance and commerce, people who work within tech are still treating their lives as if they were frontier settlers. And that’s fascinating to watch.


Exactly: Elon Musk is the classic example. And I actually really admire Elon Musk. I should say that one of my principles for working on Silicon Valley has been to take people at their word.

As we try to figure out Silicon Valley, I think it’s important to pull back a bit and try to see it from both sides. That can be tough if you have stakes in the debate. But it also gives you more room to see the whole world.


Our society tends to give permission to younger people to do certain kinds of experimenting that also happen to be really valuable inside the tech world. So, for example, we give our young people permission not to get married or have kids until they’re in their mid-thirties. That gives you your whole twenties to live in tech dorms, to try stuff out, to do things that my grandmother would have considered screwing up.

..If your vision of the progress of life includes a long hiatus for your twenties, that’s great for tech firms. If you stay all night at Google, that’s great for Google. They can bring you the barber. They can bring you the restaurant. You can have your love life at the firm. Have multiple partners, they don’t care. As long as you are super flexible and committed to the firm.


One of the legacies of the counterculture, particularly on the left, is the idea that expression is action. This idea has haunted those of us on the left for a long time.

But one of the reasons that the Tea Party came to power was that they organized—they built institutions. So the challenge for those of us who want a different world is not to simply trust that the expressive variety that the internet permits is the key to freedom. Rather, we need to seek a kind of freedom that involves people not like us, that builds institutions that support people not like us—not just ones that help gratify our desires to find new partners or build better micro-worlds.

The New Communalists believed that the micro-world was where politics happened. If we could just build a better micro-world, we could live by example to create a better world for the whole. I think that’s wrong.

Our challenge is to build a world that takes responsibility for people not like ourselves. And it’s a challenge we won’t meet by enhancing our expressive abilities, or improving the technologies of expressive connection…t

has to be all of us.. so perhaps.. techs that improve on all voices being heard.. whatever they’re saying

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way


We Can Change the World. Let Me Show You How.’: via @theprospect

Original Tweet:

In his book, Turner describes how the “political” (commune-forming, alternative lifestyle–adopting) strand of 1960s radicalism diverged from the “digital” (company-forming, technology-adopting) strand of the counterculture. The great challenge for Valley denizens who deem themselves progressives is how to re-twine these strands.

to talk to and with, and not past, each other.

2 convos that io dance.. as the day.

as it could be