Counterculture of Convenience

The counterculture of the late 1960’s is credited as being a major contributor in the rise of the computer and new media landscape. The computer blossoming into a device that can be used by everyday Americans gave it a sense that it was revolutionizing information to a far more democratic place. To say that counterculture and “hippies” carried an essential role in establishing the spirit and ideals of the new digital is giving far too much credit to a movement that was conveniently going on at the same time and in the same area.

Turner’s article thoroughly analyzes the meaning of the word “personal” in “personal computer”. Turner credits the empowerment of individuals and the spirit to reject social norms as the main reason for the rise of the personalness of the computer. The technological developments were the true reason a person found owning a computer as necessary. While counterculture in the Bay area was occurring in the late 60’s, engineers were miniaturizing a computer with a mainframe the size of a dorm room into one with a mainframe that slide under a table.

Turner would most likely read Shirky’s book and tell you that his claim of the new age of digital connectivity all roots back to the commune lifestyle popular in the late 1960’s. The counterculture argument would revolve around the notion that through the digital connectivity of the 21st century we are all just expressing our desire to help and interact with each other. On the contrary, another plausible argument could be that people are becoming more comfortable with digital communication because it satisfies their need for a connection in a far less intrusive way, thus promoting the exact opposite of the ideals of the commune.

The influence of counterculture on the digital age can be extended into present day. In 2012, we have gone past the PC in terms of how we access information and how much we depend on one device. Smart phones and Tablets allow people to express individuality in ways more than ever. A student can sit in a Starbucks with an Ipad for 12 hours and not miss a step. Should this attitude be associated to counterculture? It has become more apparent with recent technological advancements that the popularity of personal devices has to do with the improvements in the products that have allowed them to become more compact and accessible than ever.

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1 Response to Counterculture of Convenience

  1. Natalie Verduin says:

    In Here Comes Everybody, Shirky stated, “social change is driven by a new technological capability” (pg. 67). However, Turner argued that the social change of the hippie movement and counterculture influenced the ideals of the new digital age. I feel that it doesn’t have to be a one-way track. New technology influences social change, but simultaneously, social change helps shape how the technology is used. For instance, Shirky repeatedly explains to us that the trouble for old media is that the rise of the Internet caused a “collapse in transaction costs” (pg. 48). With “mass amateurization”, society is not dependent on these older news sources. We can create news and influence public opinion without using traditional press (pg. 65). Therefore technology is influencing our social change, but the technology would not be used in this way if society did not have a counterculture that believed in both the democratization of information and having smaller voices be heard. The counterculture values the smaller voice and fights against the traditional media and mass communication. Without Internet these easier communication channels would not exist, but without the social change stemming from our counterculture the Internet would not be used in this way.

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