SF Counterculture from Past to Now

I have been studying the counterculture to draw a circle to connect the 60’s hippes, 70’s punks, 80’s PC’s with the tech startups, making and hacking and urban prototyping of the 21st century. A side question is where have the arts gone?

It is so amazing. I start by looking for the raw roots of the Maker Faire and Burning Man, thought of punk and DIY of the 70’s, and out came the Cacophony Society, the Suicide Club, and out came pranksters, Whole Earth Catalogue, drag queens, it’s like shit, everything happening now is still legacy of the 70’s.

Only like Carrie Galbraith of the Cacophony Society said just recently of SantaCon, they did it because it shocked people. Do they still shock people now? Or just another mindless indulgence party?

Most types of change-making and rise-taking has become politically correct, from hacking to sharing and entrepreneurship and social change. To me it just seems to lack the radical, artistic, confronting discomforts that I thought San Francisco is known for.

Visiting Noisebridge kicked these thoughts turning in my stomach just 2 days ago. The signs “consensus” “Anarchy =/= chaos” “Do-acracy” “We are the guardians of this place once we enter” makes places like TechShop so institutionalized (not to say that their existence don’t complement each other, they do for sure!).

I have been dwelling in these information for the past few days, taking so much time to even tell the different characteristics of the Suicide Club and the Cacophony Society, or to relate to any of the stories in a personal way. Is it worth it? Spending so much time googling to create genuine feelings which I need in order to write about it, and still having hard time creating a logical perspective that links punk, weirdos with today’s startup scene.

This piece Santas and Burning Man and bridge climbing, oh my on CNet by Daniel Terdiman puts the picture together very well though!

I still have many readings to go through:

  • What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry by John Markoff
  • From Counterculture to Cyberculture by Fred Turner
  • Tales of the Cacophony Society by Carrie Galbraith & John Law which I am on a long waiting list of

I am excited to have scheduled a visit to V. Vale’s and will have to study punks and pranksters and Re/Search materials before then!

It’s a surprise to start dwelling in culture 3 decades ago when I intend to write about the current experimental San Francisco. There’s definitely a legacy but am I being too nostalgic in comparing the counterculture of now and then? How can it even be right to not be content with the wonderful ideas people are challenging the world with in current startups? What’s the counterculture now? Ideas and actions that would really put us — put me, a normal, timid person — out of our comfort zone. What shocks people now?

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