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Cold War Multimedia

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When I was researching my book From Counterculture to Cyberculture, I was surprised to find Stewart Brand and many in the back to the land movement of the late 1960s embracing some of the leading figures of American intellectual life in the 1940s and 1950s. Norbert Wiener, Gregory Bateson, Erich Fromm, Margaret Mead, and Buckminster Fuller — all had worked in or near the centers of American military, industrial and cultural power at the height of the early cold war. Yet, each also served as a beacon for a 1960s generation seeking alternatives to mainstream, bureaucratic America. I’ve spent the last few years in the archives trying to work out this seeming contradiction.

The result is a book on democratic psychology and the rise of multimedia in the 1940s and 1950s: The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties. It is very much a prequel to From Counterculture to Cyberculture.

You can find many of the core ideas of the book in an article I published in Public Culture in April, 2012, “‘The Family of Man’ and The Politics of Attention in Cold War America.”

You can find more work on related themes in two other articles, “Romantic Automatism: Art, Technology and Collaborative Labor in Cold War America,” and another, available in English as “The Corporation and the Counterculture: Revisiting the Pepsi Pavilion and the Politics of Cold War Multimedia” and in German as “Gegenkulturelle Ästhetik? Sozialtechnologien und die Expo ‘70.”