William Gibson on where the Internet's Bohemias are

Here's more of Geeta Dayal's Wired interview with William Gibson (see also), wherein Gibson discusses the way that the Internet impacts on "Bohemia" and how subcultural moments like the birth of punk differed from modern "viral" phenomena like the Gundam Style video. We'll be discussing this further on Oct 20, when we do a joint appearance at the Vancouver Writers Festival.

Wired: What if punk emerged today, instead of in 1977? How do you think it would be different?

Gibson: You’d pull it up on YouTube, as soon as it was played. It would go up on YouTube among the kazillion other things that went up on YouTube that day. And then how would you find it? How would it become a thing, as we used to say? I think that’s one of the ways in which things are really different today. How can you distinguish your communal new thing — how can that happen? Bohemia used to be self-imposed backwaters of a sort. They were other countries within the landscape of Western industrial civilization. They were countries that most people would never see — mysterious places. You’d pay a price, potentially, for going there. That’s always cool and exciting. Now, where are they? Where can you do that? How are people transacting that today? I am pretty sure that they are, but I don’t have that much firsthand experience of it. But they have to do it in a different way.

My initial experience of punk was I went to Toronto, and I happened to go to a couple of nights of what historically turned out to be their first punk concert series. They had some bands from as far away as Los Angeles playing this kind of music I’d never heard before. So I absorbed that, and went home to Vancouver sort of thinking, “I wonder what that was about.”

Then a friend of mine who had been in art school in London returned with a knapsack full of British punk zines and everything that the Sex Pistols had released up to that point. And he pulled these records out of his knapsack. I had never heard of the Sex Pistols, and neither had anyone else in Vancouver. By the end of the evening we were all talking about them [laughs]. That’s just a very different kind of spread, than getting up in the morning and seeing the first page of Boing Boing.

William Gibson on Punk Rock, Internet Memes, and ‘Gangnam Style’



  1. Wait, “Gundam Style” is not just an amusing homophonic mixup on Cory’s part, but an actual thing?! Oh happy day!

  2. Oh wow, Cory, can we see a repeat of that nonsensical NYT op-ed Gibson wrote, moronically claiming that the ultra-sophisticated Stuxnet was nothing more than the product of a kid in his mom’s basement????

  3. Which suggests to the suggestible listener that BoingBoing is not the equivalent of a 1977 knapsack full of Sex Pistols records and British punk magazines.

  4. “People” still frequent “places” where they exchange “opinions” and “ideas” in “person.” Scary, I know.

  5. Bohemia doesn’t have to be punk (though punk is fun). Bohemia isn’t even Bohemia–the community apparently developed in England after trouble in Bohemia drove interesting people away in droves.

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