Psyber-culture

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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.


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.


A few of the major thinkers at this intersection:

Stewart Brand John Perry Barlow Timothy Leary Buckminster Fuller Terence McKenna

Further Reading:

Fred Turner: "From Counterculture to Cyberculture"