Stewart Brand

Stewart Brand (born December 14, 1938 in Rockford, Illinois) is an author, editor, and creator of The Whole Earth Catalog and CoEvolution Quarterly.

I first met Stewart thirty years ago at the headquarters of USCO ("us" company), an anonymous group of artists whose installations and events combined multiple audio and visual inputs, including film, slides, video, lighting, music, and random sounds. In 1963, the group had erected a Psychedelic Tabernacle in a church half an hour outside Manhattan in Garnerville, New York. It became an obligatory stop for every seeker and guru passing through the area. Stewart lived there (in the steeple) for a while.

Stewart was fascinated with the USCO community of artists - including painter Steve Durkee, and filmmaker Jud Yalkut - and with Rockland County neighbors such as John Cage and his crowd, all of whom were reading, studying, and debating Marshall McLuhan's ideas on communications. In fact, at one point USCO went on tour with McLuhan and provided an "intermedia" counterpoint to his talks.

1968: The Whole Earth Catalog

Stewart, who preferred the term multimedia to intermedia, performed his own piece, "America Needs Indians," from 1964 to 1966 and performed "War: God" from 1967 to 1970. He organized The Trips Festival in January 1966 and created the Whole Earth button in March 1966 (it read: "Why Haven't We Seen a Photograph of the Whole Earth Yet?").

I recall visiting Stewart Brand in Menlo Park, California, in 1968 while he was working on the original Whole Earth Catalog. His wife at the time, Lois, a Native American mathematician, spent an entire day working on the catalog with a layout person while Stewart and I sat together reading and underlining a copy of Norbert Wiener's Cybernetics. I still have that copy.

Several months later, the oversized catalog arrived packed in a long tube. Reading it - or should I say devouring it? - was one of the exciting intellectual experiences of my life. More than any other book for me, the original Whole Earth Catalog captured the moment and defined the intellectual climate of the times. A subsequent edition, The Last Whole Earth Catalog, published in 1971, was a number-one best-seller and won Stewart the National Book Award.

1985 - The WELL

In 1985 Stewart cofounded The Well (Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link), a computer teleconference system for the San Francisco Bay Area, considered a bellwether of the genre. But The Well was not for me. I couldn't deal with its clunky interface. Nor was I interested in the self-consciousness of the community, which, strangely, seemed to have adopted many of Stewart's linguistic mannerisms.

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