Q: How do you get a geek out of a tree? A: What's a tree?

Are Webbies the New Hippies?

Date/Time Permalink: 12/03/07 02:45:05 am
Category: General

I just typed that title, and now I'm looking at it hovering above this sentence in ABIWord. The word 'webbies' is underlined in red, the word hippies is not, because it checks the spelling, see. What a metaphor! 'Hippie' is recognized, webbie is not.

I found myself eyeballing the History channel's documentary on the late 1960's this evening, and even though we've all had the hippie to yippie to yuppie to baby boomer thing poked down our throats with a sharp stick for two decades, it did not occur to me until tonight to sit up, look around, and wonder:

Are we in the midst of a similar movement?

Egad! And us with no Web Woodstock! But count the signs. Rebellion against authority, check. Political unrest, check. Sharp division between opposing clans, check. Desire to take power out of the hands of big business and put it back into the hands of the commoner, check. War and a protest about it, check.

Token issues to define the line between cultures? In the 60's that was drugs, but these days drugs are old hat. Now it's media. We want free access and control over media, big business wants to hang onto it. The women and the minorities are now pretty liberated, but the gays are still taking the heat and now we have to figure out how to liberate the Democrats.

A free press? To replace underground mimeographed newspapers, we have the ultimate killer publishing device: the blog. The blogs already took over, period. Blogs are the reality TV of the web. And TV... if you're on the Internet all the time, you can sometimes get downright nostalgic for the days when you actually burned an hour or two per night on TV. With four computers in the house, we darned near have to blow the dust off the remote when we turn the TV on. Even the kids divide their time 50-50 between TV and Internet.

No, the webbies have owned the media for some time, and that's what the strike in Hollywood is over. Back in the 1980's, Hollywood script-writers had a strike and the whole country wrung their hands over it. This time, we've barely noticed. Truly, if every Hollywood script-writer currently on strike never went back to work, it wouldn't impact our household in the slightest.

What about communes? Well, I freelance at home, so it feels like a commune. I type and click the mouse a lot on the computer, and checks mysteriously show up in the mail. To my neighbors, I must certainly seem like a commune-dweller, since I keep this leisurely schedule where I basically do whatever I want and don't commute to a job every day. My work uniform is T-shirt and shorts instead of business casual, and my morning commute constitutes going downstairs.

I don't see myself as being a lone ranger, either. Lots and lots of sites are starting to blog about freelancing. More and more I'm hearing about telecommuting. When I take my kids to the park, guess who I end up talking to? Other dads taking their kids to the park. And they work in tech, too! Either partial telecommuting and in-office, or entirely from home. That's why we're all there in T-shirts and shorts and two day's stubble at 3:30PM on a Thursday with our kids at the park.

The History channel closed with an interview with the Apple Steve twins, Wozniac and Jobs, talking about how they came out of the hippie freedom culture and founded the renegade technology movement. Because computers and the Internet put power in the hands of the people again, they explain.

Hey, except, check this out, they came all the way around to being The Man! Now they're the oppressive big business and we're rising up to seize technology back for the people. Whether it's proprietary software or DRM or the DMCA or the RIAA and the MPAA, everybody on the web has their personal Big Business Bad Guy that they're fighting against.

The webbies. For real? How come we aren't all organized like the hippies were? Or maybe the hippies weren't as organized at the time as they appeared to be in retrospect. And will there come a time when open source and open formats and fair use content is the Big Business Bad Guy, and somebody will be leading a revolution to put us down? God, I hope not. I guess nobody wants to turn from Anakin to Darth, do they?

There's the big push back from big business and big government, just like 40 years ago. They keep fumbling around trying to cope with the upstart webbies just like the upstart hippies, and when they even make a move that shows they're trying to adapt, what's the response from the webbies? "You just don't get it!" Yeah, might as well be in beads and tie-dye when you utter that line.

One thing I can tell for sure, changes are happening, slowly. Because something is happening here.

But you don't know what it is... Do you? Mister Jooooooones?

Gimp is hot stuff

NOTE: Almost on cue, I see Cory Doctorow, one of the geek culture's tribal bards, has a new book out called "Little Brother", described "A rousing tale of techno-geek rebellion, as necessary and dangerous as file sharing, free speech, and bottled water on a plane." Little Brother, you see, is striking back against Big Brother.

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