Fred Turner is an Associate Professor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Communication at Stanford University. He is the author of From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism and Echoes of Combat: The Vietnam War in American Memory. Before coming to Stanford, Turner taught Communication at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He also worked for ten years as a journalist. Turner has written for newspapers and magazines ranging from the Boston Phoenix and the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine to Nature. During the academic year 2007-2008, he was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.
What one insight from your field, approach, method, findings etc. do you think is most important for scholars working in this topical area?
History matters. We have the forms of cultural production we do for historical reasons and not simply because of contemporary technological or commercial conditions.
What are two issues that are not adequately treated within current work on cultural production in the digital age in your field or in others?
Cultural historians of my stripe need to take technology much more seriously as a force for cultural change; likewise, historians of technology need to take culture into more rigorous account in their histories of device development and why it matters.
Are humanistic values such as justice, equality, democracy or (insert preferred humanistic value here) currently served by cultural production in a digital networked environment?
Sometimes. But not nearly as often as they should be. As I’ve tried to argue elsewhere, we’re shifting the negotiation of resources from the juridical to the cultural realm. This is a big shift, with big advantages for those who are from the right cultures and big disadvantages from those who are not.