Whole Earth Catalog

Publication – Menlo Park, California, United States

1968 – 1972

www.wholeearth.com

Published regularly between 1968 and 1972, the Whole Earth Catalog listed products, such as books, maps, specialist journals, camping equipment, tools and machinery, alongside methods for building, planting and specialist articles on topics ranging from organic farming, resource depletion, solar power, recycling and wind energy. It was essentially a handbook for those wanting to live self-sufficiently, full of tips and suggestions. Today, its name is synonymous with the American counter-cultural scene of the late 1960s. The Catalog was the brainchild of Stewart Brand, who was the editor; together with his collaborators, the mathematician Lois Jennings and the industrial designer James Baldwin, the Catalog was published as a series of regular editions unitl 1972 and intermittent editions until 1998.

The Whole Earth Catalog embraced systems theory and cybernetic evolutionis; its conceptual stance of a holistic model for society was inspired by the works of the anthropologist Gregory Bateson, the theorist Marshall McLuhan, architect Buckminster Fuller and the mathematician Nobert Wiener. What began as an interest in communes and happenings (Brand was partly inspired by Drop City, the artists' settlement in Colorado) evolved into a long-lasting interest in computers and alternative technology. The Whole Earth endeavour became a way of researching how a grass-roots movement could be furnished with information and energy, of how it could become a reality. The Catalog's sister organistion, the Farallones Institute, which was funded by the same non-profit educational institution, the Portola Institute in Menlo Park, California, concentrated on developing alternative technology solutions.

There was nothing for sale in the Catalogs, instead they were a repository of information, giving contact details of retailers, prices for items, facilitating access. Its DIY approach valorised the amateur through providing what the catalog's strap line called, 'access to tools'. The ambition of the Whole Earth Catalog was huge; it was a paper based database that has been described variously as a conceptual forerunner to the Internet and as democratising access to information, likened in its operation to Google's earlier more benign ambitions. Over the years, the Catalog evolved into a number of different forms, including Whole Earth Supplement, Whole Earth Review, and CoEvolution Quarterly.

Other Work

Stewart Brand, How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built, New edition. (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1997).

---, ed., Whole Earth Catalog (Menlo Park, CA: Portola Institute, 1969-1998).

---, ed., CoEvolution Quarterly (Sausalito, CA: Point Foundation, 1974-1985).

References About

Andrew G. Kirk, Counterculture Green: The Whole Earth Catalog and American Environmentalism (Lawrence, KA: University Press of Kansas, 2007).

John Markoff, What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer (Chapel Hill, NC: Viking Books, 2005).

PlentyMag.com, "The Whole Earth Catalog Effect," Mother Nature Network, http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/stories/the-whole-earth-catalog-effect?page=1.

"The Land - Rancho Diablo," http://theland.wikispaces.com/Rancho+Diablo.

Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network and the Rise of Digital Utopianism (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2006).

Simon Sadler, "An Architecture of the Whole," Journal of Architectural Education 61, no. 4 (2008): 108-129.

"Whole Earth Catalog," Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whole_Earth_Catalog.

Quotes

'The WHOLE EARTH CATALOG functions as an evaluation and access device. With it, the user should know better what is worth getting and where and how to do the getting.'
- Stewart Brand, opening page of Whole Earth Catalog, 1969.

'We are as gods and might as well get good at it.'
- Stewart Brand, opening page of Whole Earth Catalog, 1969.

---, ed., CoEvolution Quarterly (Sausalito, CA: Point Foundation, 1974-1985).

'To the extent that the Whole Earth Catalog reflected a particular "theory of civilization" it was a theory developed on the communes.'
- Stewart Brand quoted in, http://theland.wikispaces.com/Rancho+Diablo

'Evolution is adapting to meet one's needs. Coevolution, the larger view, is adapting to meet each other's needs.'
- Stewart Brand, Introduction to CoEvolution Quarterly, 1974.

'For this new countercultural movement, information was a precious commodity. In the '60s, there was no Internet; no 500 cable channels. Bookstores were usually small and bad; libraries, worse. The WEC not only gave you permission to invent your life, it gave you the reasoning and the tools to do just that. And you believed you could do it, because on every page of the catalog were other people doing it. This was a great example of user-generated content, without advertising, before the Internet. Basically, Brand invented the blogosphere long before there was any such thing as a blog.'
- Kevin Kelly, former editor-in-chief at Whole Earth quoted in, http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/stories/the-whole-earth-catalog-effect?page=4

'Rejecting the professionalization of design, the Catalog took sustainability to be a concern for the citizenry at large, one best approached as a ''design Wiki,'' so to speak, refusing to cede to political and industrial hege- mony, or to the supposition that nature is a limiting condition on society.'
- Simon Sadler, "An Architecture of the Whole," Journal of Architectural Education 61, no. 4 (2008): 108.

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