PC Mag Seeks Nu Ideology; 2 Grafs Max Pls

March 24, 1997

     Wired magazine, a.k.a. the Pravda of Silicon Valley, is looking for a new ideology. Or so says Kevin Kelley, the magazine's editor. In a recent post on the Well, under the "Goofy Leftists Sniping at Wired" topic, Kelley wrote: "All those who have said that Wired is confused about its ideology are correct. We have been doing it by the seat of our pants, but it's too inconsistent. We would like to be clearer and more consistent. Seriously. We have decided to come up with a clear ideology. Again, I am serious. . . . We need a two paragraph (max) ideology we can recite every morning. Anyone want to help us with one?"

      Some of the Goofy Leftists are skeptical. After all, every good Marxist knows ideology is dictated by economic class interests. The rap on 3-year-old Wired has always been that its unabashed boosterism for the high-tech future pandered to industry at the expense of the truth.

      But perhaps it is precisely because of the materialist link between ideas and economy that Wired is shopping for religion now. The magazine, and its revolution, have fallen on some hard times. First, Wired failed twice to raise money from Wall Street. It canceled plans for its German edition and folded its U.K. publication.

     Then, in its March issue, a cover story on "push media" signed by the magazine's editors described the diminishing importance of the World Wide Web and its coming merger with old media like TV.

     As media theorist Geert Lovink wrote in a post that prompted Kelley's solicitation: "Wired's own destiny is closely connected to the rise (and fall?) of the World Wide Web. . . . The Wired enterprise must have been in big need for a new ideology and tries to find it in the catch phrase 'push media.' But this pushing does not fit exactly within the previous ideology."

     And in the midst of all this flux, Wired bashing has become something of a sport even among members of the Techno Party.

     "Has anyone noticed that Wired has managed, as a result of its arrogance and hubris and continual ideological shape-shifting, to systematically alienate and antagonize almost every key segment of their target audience?" posts author and new media consultant David Kline. "Trust me folks. Kevin et.al. do NOT truly want your feedback."

     Kelley says it's not true. Circulation is up over 300,000. Still, dogged by accusations of heartless libertarianism and a lack of critical outlook on questionable technology, he has felt a need for more input of late.

     "I have generally ignored the readers," Kelley says. "I want to make sure we're talking to our peers, making a magazine we want to read. But in this case, because there is such a mismatch between perception of us and our own perception, I thought I should listen."

     The hyper-scrutiny Wired has come under is due largely to its success in becoming the bible of the digital culture. Its ideology may not yet be dominant, but it does influence and reflect how a broader slice of society handles the forces of technological change.

     Kelley says he has not yet found anything he plans to adopt. "There's a lot of verbosity," he says.

     Plus there are pieces of the magazine's current ideology that are here to stay, he says: "Relentless optimism? I plead guilty to that. . . . I wouldn't call it blind optimism, but I would call it pretty hard-core optimism. So if that's an ideology then we do have that."

     That might preclude the (one-paragraph) revolutionary suggestion from Well poster Rebecca Eisenberg: "I'd like to see Wired editors wake up every day and ask: 'How is technology changing our world? What can we see happening in the future? Is this good or bad? Let's think about this. . . .' "


Copyright Los Angeles Times

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