Psyber-culture refers to the intersection of counterculture and cyberculture that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1960s, computers were seen as centralized, bureaucratic machines that fragmented the holistic self. However, as personal computing became more accessible, computers began to be understood as tools for connection and community.
Stewart Brand and the Whole Earth Network played a key role in linking the counterculture scene with the nascent cyberculture movement. Brand advocated a holistic view of cybernetics that resonated with countercultural values like environmentalism, psychedelics, and communal living. The Whole Earth Catalog contained a diverse array of products and ideas that tied together counterculture and technology.
Other influential figures at the intersection of counterculture and cyberculture included Timothy Leary, John Perry Barlow, Buckminster Fuller, and Terence McKenna. They saw emerging technologies as tools for personal liberation, connection, and new modes of consciousness.
The confluence of counterculture and cyberculture in the 1960s-70s laid the groundwork for modern hacker ethics and digital communities. Traces of this "psyber-culture" can still be seen today in the holistic, libertarian ethos of many technology spaces. Understanding these historical connections sheds light on the origins of contemporary tech culture.
- Shift from viewing computers as bureaucratic tools to instruments of connection/liberation
- Stewart Brand and Whole Earth Network as touchpoints between counterculture and cyberculture
- Influential thinkers like Leary, Barlow, Fuller, McKenna
- Legacy on modern hacker ethics and digital communities
A phrase coined by Timothy Leary to talk about the intersection of counterculture and cyberculture. While overlooked by many scholars studying computer culture, this connection helps explain the historical roots of many of the basic cultural principles found in the modern "hacker" ethic. A few of the major thinkers at this intersection were Stewart Brand, John Perry Barlow, Timothy Leary, Buckminster Fuller and Terence McKenna.
In the 1960s protests computers were identified with the machine that fragments the holistic unity of a person. Computers were centralized computation machines that were linked to the military, government, and general beurocracy. During the Berkeley protests, students wore punch cards around their neck to emphasize how they were just treated as mere numbers that were crunched by the university/machine/computer.
By the mid-70s, this conception had shifted. As decentralized personal computing became more feasible, the computer increasingly began to be understood as a cybernetic connection that allowed people to connect in new ways. Rather than further alienating us, computers allowed us to be a more complete person by opening new possibilities of community. Through a holistic understanding of cybernetics, people like Stewart Brand paved the way for a common ideological thread between computers, psychedelics, communes, the Green movement, geodesic domes, etc. This link can be seen in the strange variety of objects and philosophies found in the Whole Earth Catalog.
The confluence of counterculture and cyberculture can still be seen today in a variety of technological communities and should factor into any rigorous ethnography of digital spaces.
Turner, Fred. "From Counterculture to Cyberculture". Stewart Brand, The Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism, 2006.