"Here comes the Bible for us living in the 90's"
"Net Voice in the City", a book reporting on the cyber revolution on the west coast in the 90's U.S.
SHIFT had an long interview with the author of the book, Yasuhiro Kaneda, to see what's been going on in the bay area in the 90's. This book must be surely more valuable than any scriptures, or encyclopedia to those who are now reading this article.
Yes, you're in this movement right now, and it's you who'll create the future with the net!
First of all, could you tell us a little about how this 'Net Voice in the City' came out towards us in the 90's? I mean, what's implied with the book?
In Oct, 1995, when I was about to have a book 'Cyber Revolution' published, I had advice from Gousuke Takama, art director of Technodon Live performance by YMO, that he said there was kind of a digital revolution going on on the west coast of U.S. In those days, Japan just toyed with a term 'Mutlimedia' almost only on commercial basis instead while U.S was facing 'the revolution as a culture' like 60's hippy movement, 70's punk, 80's new wave. He told me about that. That's why I went to the U.S to see the revolution with my bare eyes. And Mr Fukuoka, exective editor of Cape X (currently discontinued), helped me have this book published.
When did you actually head for the U.S?
On 23 Nov '95. And then, I was there for three months taking a series of interviews from Kevin Kelly (executive editor of WIRED) R.U.Sirius (former executive editor of Mondo 2000), Michael Gosny (Digital Be-In) and guys from Cyborganics.
I could meet main persons of the digital culture there.
In the book, I have lots of references to the underground culture on the west coast. There're thousands of so-called "Zine" in the U.S that is kind of a culture supported by the underground community. When I elaborately asked Jerod Pore from an e-zine 'Fact Sheet Five' about what "Zine" tries to achieve exactly, he answered at the end that it's the unity through diversity. He told me that. Now, U.S keeps a diverse range of variety in every aspect. For example, some people practice body piercing, some tatto, some are Gay or Lesbian, some prefer LSD to Ecstacy and vice versa or some just smoke pot. People're branching out to every direction, producing a wide variety of diversity now. We need to respect the differences between people and create a harmonious world. I reckon that these ideas're what "Zine" conveys to us.
As R.U.Serius claimed, our time is not the time that has a vital political/economic/philosophical/centre. There's no centre in our time. There're just lots of things, or 'edges' exsisting around us. Each one is growing at random unlike the 60's, 70's qnd 80's. It's the time of the kind we're in now.
In a sense, I assume that 'diverse freedom' will be admitted by our society and spread over the world. We'll get closer to the time of 'unity through diversity'.
Another thing I'd like to say in the book is that it's important to foresee the future, as well as to learn from the past. You know you 'll be able to tell what'll have been going on to some extent in the future if you examine the present.
Also you should foresee your own future, personally, not always socially. I hope people who read this book'll design their own lives.
While Japan is believed to have refined high-technology, then why did you chose U.S, not Japan?
That's a simple question. Personal computers derived from the 60's microcomputer culture, right?
It's well-known that back-from-india Steve Jobs invented the personal computer in the 60's. In essence, computer culture originated in the west coast. There're many companies and indivisuals who originated from garages in Silicon Valley, like Hewlett-Packard. You see the whole computer culture was nearly made on the west coast. On the other hand, Japan usually take such cultures from somewhere else and adapt itself to them. The personal computer, Internet, CPU etc.., all of these're originally from the U.S.
There's an aspect in which you can feel a culture as well as a computer itself by manupulating Mac. Many people, who love raving, techno music, or are fans of Grateful Dead, are greatly influenced by the culture in the west. For instance, about fifty employees of Macintosh all went to see a concert of Grateful Dead even though their office became empty, and the origonator of phone hacker, John. T. Draper (Captain Crunch) loves to dance with Techno music etc...You name it.
On the contrary, Japan adapts only technology, no culture. It's the representative fact that Steven Jobs was a hippy. While I was taking an interview with some people from Organic Online, inc, web designing company that designed homepages for Microsoft Corporation, Yahoo, Netscape, McDonald's, Levi Strauss & Co. etc..., they said that " You should take Steven Jobs as a good example. That's why we love raving and organise an Ambient band. Jobs is symbolic of it all".
Hyperreal, very famous Techno server, is maintained by them, actually. Brian Behlendorf, staff member of the company, is in charge of dealing with the server. Initially, they started out from their bedroom eargerly persuading people that the Internet would share a very important part of the industrial market and now own such a big company. Working together with other famous clients, they have the Hyperreal server that provides lots of information about Techno & Rave parties in San Francisco with people not only in the west but the world.
n Japan, the people around the Internet indusry have just started doing like that. But, most of the cases, it's hard for them to make their bedrooms develop into big independent companies because Japanese giant companies tactfully enclose them and absorb new ideas of their own.
On the other hand, from the time almost nobody even thought about business opportunities in the Internet, they started out as a tiny private enterprise in the west of U.S. You know it's a long and mature history there.
Probably, TV, radio, fax and telephone all originated in the U.S. And, Japan imports them just because they are good modern convinience.
Basically. it's the Japanese government and giant companies that always import them. But, we hardly ever know what's behind them. It's the culture behind them.
There was a time that TV was believed to be a wonderful tool for the future like the Internet we have now.
As Allen Cohen (Author of Haight ashbury in the sixties!) once said, at first, TV was welcomed by people who expected that it was going to be a marvellous tool for human beings to help them be well-educated and develop the civilization. But, now it's become nothing but a symbol of effuluent crap. He says that there's a possibility that the Internet might follow the same history as TV. The idea of 'the Internet = the undergound' is already old-fashioned. In that sense, this book isn't up-to-date.(laughter) I hope a new generation of the Internet'll see my book and get the truth about the history of the net culture.
Japanese Techno scene is believed to be very hot now. I believe that is all made of creams of 'remix' work. Basically, Japan itself has been made of many fragments of remixed things. Especially, our generation is influenced by a sense of remixing very much. What do you think about that?
Cool people admit that remixing is good, don't they? I've made up a word 'Japanese Pride' which we need to develop further. There's no cool people who don't know Pizzicato Five and Boredoms in the west of U.S. So, some people in foreign countries highly estimate some of the Japanese bands.
All you have to do is just keep on keeping on. You just have to create intersting, enjoyable and cool things. You shouldn't be concious of slight differences between things. That sort of practice'll one way or another change Japan's direction and permeate through the public.
You can't feel Tokyo's energetic speediness in anywhere else, not in San Francisco or New York City.
People at the cutting edge gather around Tokyo and They love Tokyo.
We can't get back to where we were because we've all been throwing away old things. Since that's how Japan's been made over the centuries. I am sure Tokyo is one of the most unique city of the world.
Net Voice In The City
Author: Yasuhiro Kaneda
Published by Ascii
Price: 1,600 yen
Translation: Satoru Tanno