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The best time to have a worst time

I always dreamed of owning a Whole Earth Catalog. Back on Jersey in the 70s and 80s they were the stuff of legend, only noted by reference.

When I found I could subscribe to the Whole Earth Review, thanks to a Bruce Sterling column in one of the first news-stand Interzones, I signed on the dotted line quicker than anything - that email to a WELL address was one of my first ecommerce transactions. I still wanted the catalogues, and I scoured Hay-on-Wye, and got bookseller friends to order me copies of the in-print editions, along with the Sterling-edited Signal, which introduced me to a wider electronic world than the walled garden of JANET. But perhaps the most influential piece of the Whole Earth philosophy was its simple slogan:
"Access to tools and ideas".
Such a simple concept, and such a world changer for someone from an island where 6 miles was a long way, and the single town somewhere you only went when you really really had to (and only then if you were going to be there all day).

So why am I thinking of it today?

There's a line in Cory Doctorow's seasonal email that I'm sure he won't mind me quoting:
"But I just keep on remembering that we live in the best time in the history of the world to have a worst time: the time when collective action is cheaper and easier than ever, the time when more information and better access to tools, ideas and communities are at our fingertips than they’ve ever been."
It made me realise that we're living with the greatest edition of the Whole Earth Catalog ever, and it's constantly being updated.

This blog is just one page in it, along with yours and the many millions of other pieces of content that are added to the ever-growing web every day. The tutorials I write, the articles and the columns are another set of pages, along with photos that document my life and my friends. Then there are the ever-growing wikis, and the search engines that link them together. It's not just in a box in the office, or on a bookshelf - it goes everywhere we go, and fits in our pockets and on our TV screens.

The connections made by the web mean that the world is a smaller one and a better one. It's worth remembering that the connections we make are the ones that will help us through the years to come - whether they're hard or difficult.

What connections will you make, and what tools and ideas will you share with the world in 2009?


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 20th, 2008 11:29 am (UTC)
Funny you should mention this right now. I've recently been thinking about the WEC. I had a few different editions, and they were all lost in a housefire a couple of years back, but they've been on mind of recent days.

You know what? In some ways, they were better. You've got copies? Get one. Go. Go now. Go sit outside in the sun, open it up. Anywhere. Start reading.

I'm not saying that some of the Web, some of the Net, some of the 'sphere aint bloody brilliant.

But go now. Go now, go sit outside and read. And tell me it aint better.

Dare you.
Dec. 20th, 2008 12:43 pm (UTC)
Have you seen www.wholeearth.com? It reminded me how amazing some of those Catalogs and magazines were. You didn't have to be isolated on an island in the English Channel for them to have impact...
Dec. 20th, 2008 07:03 pm (UTC)
The library of the Lanchester Poly (now Coventry University) was open to the public and used to have a copy or two. Every time I looked at it, it had got slimmer as people took pages...
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )