Gather 'round, everyone. It's time to discuss the politics throughline in the #Wiredarchive project.
There are three pretty distinct eras of @WIRED political coverage. (1) early WIRED, which runs from 93-03, (2) Web 2.0 WIRED, which runs from 03-15, and (3) what I started calling #WokeWIRED in my archival notes, which runs from '15 through today.
Speaking as a digital politics scholar who started reading the magazine in the mid-00s, there were some surprising gaps in political coverage in early WIRED.
In my discipline, the anti-globalization movement/"Battle of Seattle" is an iconic reference point. Not in WIRED at all.
...I *still* don't understand what the editors were talking about. #wiredarchive
I *think* the historical takeaway from the essay is that the web had gotten big enough to be a complete, unworkable mess. (This is a couple years pre-Google, when you couldn't really find anything.)
The full editorial team was trying to suss out what comes next. they knew it wasn't just more hyperlinked web pages stacked on top of web pages. And they got excited about the potential of convergence between the web and other media.
Schrage writes, "The economics of advertising, promotion, and sponsorship - more than the technologies of teraflops, bandwidth, and GUI - will shape the virtual realities we may soon inhabit. Wherever there are audiences, there will be advertisers."
The tricky piece here is that the journalism story is also a digital advertising/economics of the web story. For brevity's sake, I've put them on separate throughlines.
Early @WIRED was not shy about declaring that technology was going to kill mass media. April 93, Michael Crichton wrote "Mediasaurus." wired.com/1993/04/medias…
"it is likely that what we now understand as the mass media will be gone within ten years. Vanished, without a trace."
It's worth pausing to note just *how* early this is. The World Wide Web barely exists at this point. The Mosaic browser won't be covered in the magazine until 1994. The Net is still BBS message boards.
So Crichton isn't talking about how "everyone is a journalist now."
Okay, now let's talk about the history of futurism in @WIRED. There is a ton here, but I think I've settle on a handful of articles that illustrate the broader trend. #wiredarchive
90s Wired had futurism baked into its bones. The founding Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor were devoted futurists.
The first volume of WIRED was published before the Web as we know it even existed. The Internet in mass society was still a thing to be imagined/created.
In volume 6, issue 1, the magazine described the "Seven Wired Wonders" of the world. wired.com/1993/06/wired-…
They included: (1) The Net, (2) Micromanufacturing, (3) Digital Astronomy, (4) Senior Citizens, (5) The Human Genome Project, (6) Neuromantic Drugs, and (7) Immersive tech
April 2010, @StevenLevy hails the iPad as a radical breakthrough, the future of computing.
I’m curious whether/how much he thinks this holds up. Eight years later, tablets have pretty wide adoption. But they’re still mostly just iPhones with bigger screens. (...) #wiredarchive
There are exceptions in specific businesses, just as wearable computers (Apple Watch, Google Glass) can play a major role when narrowly adopted in specialized professions.
But one thing that I've found striking in late 00's/early 10's WIRED is how innovation is slowing down.
It's been incredible witnessing the monthly drumbeat of technological and social transformation from 1993-2008. So many big things were introduced, took hold, and then became foundational to our daily lives.
By comparison, how much has really changed from 2008 to 2018?
June 09. @kevin2kelly sees an “emerging collectivism” in Wikipedia, Flickr, & Twitter. He describes them as a new “cultural vanguard,” a “steady move toward a sort of socialism uniquely tuned for a networked world.”
This issue is three months after @WIRED's cover story grappling with the financial collapse. It's also six months into Obama's first term in office, and four months after the magazine devoted a full feature section to the "GPS revolution" (aka impacts of the iPhone/mobile web)
So we've got the optimism of the Obama yes-we-can moment, the doom-and-gloom of the economic crash, and the technological possibility of the dissolving barriers between offline and online.
One thing I've been pondering recently: the early marketing campaign for the iPhone -- tv ads in particular -- did something that I *still* haven't seen for VR (the supposed next revolution in digital technology)
One of the early tv ads showed how you could use an iPhone to search for a restaurant, find it on a map, then call it to make a reservation. That was incredible! It was a direct appeal to the ways you could actually use it in your actual life.
Oof. This was NOT good week to get to the November 2016 issue of @WIRED (guest edited by @BarackObama).
Obama writes: “we are far better equipped to take on the challenges we face than ever before. I know that might sound at odds with what we see and hear (...)” #wiredarchive
“...these days in the cacophony of cable news and social media. Bet the next time you’re bombarded with over-the-top claims about how our country is doomed or the world is coming apart at the seams, brush off the cynics and fearmongers. Because the truth is, if (...)”
“(...) you had to choose any time in the course of human history to be alive, you’d choose this one. Right here in America, right now.”
Eighteen months after his words hit newsstands, we’re putting migrant children in cages.
May 2004, @wired asks “what will the retirement age be in 20 years?” Answers range from 67 to 75. Futurist Peter Schwartz argues “Our children will look forward to a life measured in centuries, and current notions of retirement will have to change drastically.” #wiredarchive
Today, 14 years later, I think there’s a chance that the retirement age will be raised to 75, and/or social security will be abolished.
But we’re done pretending that we are on the verge of a major breakthrough in life extension, right?
I’m intensely curious to see how the tone of futurist predictions, both in @Wired and elsewhere, have changed post-2016.
My hunch is that it has become more difficult to pretend that politics and power aren’t central determinants.
Even though it’s just a one-page column, this @lessig Nov ‘03 piece marks a turning point in @WIRED politics coverage. It’s indicative, I think, of a much bigger shift in digital politics. (1/x)
Prior to this piece, traditional politics has been absent from the magazine’s coverage, sometimes surprisingly so.
No mention of Clinton/Lewinsky, except a brief mention in an article about Matt Drudge.
No mention of the anti-globalization movement. (2/x) #wiredarchive
Mid-90s @WIRED covered internet-related legislation, and had a regular column from the @EFF. And there was a “Netizen” column in ‘96 by John Heilemann. And there were occasional libertarian-tinged “here comes the Internet public” essays over the years. (3/x)
October 2001, first @WIRED feature article about @Google, “I’m feeling lucky.” The article focuses on AdWords, which was a pretty massive innovation in its time. Made it the only search engine to turn a profit. (1/2) #wiredarchive
What’s particularly striking in retrospect is the timing here.
The mid-90s Internet was an “infobahn.”
The late-90s Internet was “portals.”
The early 2000s Internet is going to be search. That’s the dominant model and the prevailing metaphor. (2/3)
And the Search Internet era takes off in the *immediate aftermath* of the dotcom crash.
Google had been gaining popularity for years, but attention to Google’s business model takes off immediately after the smoke clears.
This runs counter to a pattern I’ve seen in the magazine. They cover the buildup of new tech. They cover the peak of new tech. But they rarely cover the fall or the aftermath.
(That’s not a critique of @WIRED, btw. It’s true for all tech journalism and academic case studies)
...I noticed this point last night, reading volume 21 (2013). After a couple years covering Groupon and Zynga as those companies set records, in 2013 there are a pair of comedic references in the “statgeist” Venn diagrams section, noting how each has shed revenue.