Hiking with Howard Rheingold
Back home again, I’m still processing all the ideas and people we met with in Chicago and California. Our last visit in California was to Howard Rheingold, who took us walking in the mountains by his home outside of San Francisco. Rheingold has a beautiful enclosed garden smelling of roses, with an office for his writing and a studio down the back for his painting. A work in progress in his studio is a pataphysical slot machine he’s building with some friends – all wood and paint now, but to have three dimensional dioramas and circuit boards as well when it’s finished. I should have taken a photo – but I did find a video of it on YouTube (of course). It’s painted blue now, but is still a ways from being completed.
When Rheingold visited Bergen in 2004 for our Digital og sosial conference I remember he found himself a rock on Fløyen to bring home to his garden. I was quite impressed that eight years he knew exactly where it was, neatly arranged with other rocks and souvenirs of his travels. Rheingold lives in the hills near Muir Woods, home of the redwoods, and he took us walking up the steep hills at an impressive speed – we Bergeners are used to hills but were still huffing and puffing behind him.
Howard Rheingold has been one of those people who sees what’s going to happen next since the early days of social technologies. His 1993 book The Virtual Community (now available online) was seminal, as was Smart Mobs ten years later. I’m currently reading his latest book, Net Smart, which outlines five literacies needed to manage technology usefully – when to allow yourself to be distracted while surfing for example, and when (and how) to maintain a focus. One of his major current interests is mind amplifiers – that is, the ways in which technology ranging from writing to blogging to more can augment our thinking.
Unfortunately the videos from the Digital og sosial conference in Bergen in 2004 are lost in cyberspace (we’re looking for them and may yet get them up again) but Jon did find and upload this video of Howard Rheingold answering questions after his talk at the conference. I’ll let you know if we find the video of the talk itself…
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