As I suggested above, the Whole Earth Catalog was really my generation’s social media and world-wide web. That it came from a similar altruistic perspective to that which underpinned the Internet and the Web is explained in Fred Turner’s excellent From Counter culture to Cyber culture – Stewart Brand, The Whole Earth Network and the Rise of Digital Utopianism (2006). This was the catalog of ideas, of products, of books, of people – that brought us all together. It kick-started environmentalism as a counter-culture concern (Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace were formed in the next few years), and as Fred Turner explains, it was the organ of techno-optimism – the first pages were devoted to Buckminster Fuller. It was one of the first of the underground publications that promised real world-change. And as Turner points out – it was commercially successful too – “Over the next three years, the Whole Earth Catalog and the Supplement grew exponentially, and so did their audience. Before they announced that they would cease publication with The Last Whole Earth Catalog of 1971, Stewart, Lois and a growing staff produced six different semiannual editions of the Catalog, of which some 2.5 million copies were ultimately sold.” (Turner pp81).
The counter-arguments to the kind of techno-optimism evangelised by Brand are to be found in Theodore Roszak’s From Satori to Silicon Valley (1986), and Where the Wasteland Ends (1972).