Technology then and now

Interesting post today from Nick Carr on the relationship between the Sixties counter culture and today's Web 2.0 utopianism. It sent me off to reread Theodore Roszak's The Making of the Counter Culture, one of more coherent historical sociologies of the Sixties revolt.

Reading Roszak from our vantage point is fascinating. In the first chapter, entitled Technocracy's Children, Roszak describes the Sixties as being a democratic revolt against the "meticulous systematization Adam Smith once celebrated is his well-known pin factory." Roszak, thus, sees the counter culture as a popular revolt against specialization, against the division of labour:

In the technocracy, nothing is any longer small or simple or readily apparent to the non-technical man. Instead, the scale and intricacy of all human activities -- political, economic, cultural -- transcends the competence of the amateurish citizen and inexorably demands the attention of specially trained experts.

The really interesting thing to think about here is the way in which the Web 2.0 revolution has made technology the answer rather than the problem for utopians. Today, old counter culturalists like Stewart Brand can argue that technology empowers the amateurish citizen. So the only thing that's changed between the Sixties and today is the ideological role of technology. In the Sixties, the amateurish citizen was manufactured by turning on, tuning in and dropping out. Today, it's much simpler to become an amateur citizen. All you need to do is blog or contribute to Wikipedia.