Michael William Gosney (Born July 11, 1953) is an American writer and editor; book, music, and multimedia publisher; festival and event producer; and thought leader in the fields of technology, consciousness, and environmentalism. He was an early digital media pioneer, publishing Verbum magazine, distinguished as one of the first desktop published magazines and producer of the first multimedia CD-ROM and first fully interactive book/CD-ROM packages in partnership with firms Apple, Kodak, Adobe Systems, Toshiba, Microsoft, and Random House. He has produced and co-produced festivals, conferences, and exhibits in the digital art, technology, environmentalism, and cannabis and psychedelic spheres, including the Digital Be-In, a San Francisco-based celebration and technology showcase described by Soledad O’Brien on MSNBC as, “where 60’s counterculture meets 90’s cyberculture;” the Human Be-In 50th Anniversary festival held in San Francisco on January 14, 2017; the Earthdance multi-location global peace festival, held annually since 1997 in conjunction with the United Nations International Day of Peace on September 21; and the Imagine Exhibit of Personal Computer Art in San Diego, CA, Boston, MA, and Tokyo, Japan.
He co-founded the Green Century Institute in San Francisco, a non-profit dedicated to the development of sustainable communities. He is Managing Director of the Techné Verde ICT research project with the Buckminster Fuller Institute developing social and collaboration networks for transformative culture; and Director of Strategic Planning for Synergetic Press, a publisher of books and journals on psychedelic research, biospheric science, and regenerative design.
Gosney was born in Pittsburg, PA and graduated from Shawnee Mission South High School in Overland Park, KS in 1972. He attended Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ in 1972-73 and University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS in 1975-76. He relocated to San Diego, CA in 1976, where he co-founded the literary agency The Word Shop and published the Journal of Holistic Health from 1978 to 1980.
He founded the independent publishing house Avant Books in 1980. His notable publications include The Life and Adventures of John Muir (1979) by James Mitchell Clarke, a biography of the early conservationist and founder of the Sierra Club: the English version of the play Buddha (1983) by Nikos Kazantzakis, translated by Kimon Friar and Athena Dallas-Damis; and Deep Ecology (1985) ed. by Michael Tobias, a collection of essays proposing a progressive, post-modern environmental sensibility.
From 1986 to 1991, Gosney published and edited Verbum, an early personal computer and computer art magazine focusing on interactive art and computer graphics. Along with Info 64, Verbum was one of the first periodicals to be entirely produced with desktop publishing techniques. Referring to itself as a “journal of personal computer aesthetics,” Verbum was notable for placing more emphasis on creative aspects of its subject matter in contrast to the predominantly technical content of other publications at the time.
Issue 1.1 published in March 1987 was laid out in PageMaker 1.2 on Macintosh Plus computers and generated camera-ready 300 dpi printout from an Apple LaserWriter Plus. It grew from early black and white content to include color and make use of the growing fields of image manipulation and multimedia.
In 1991, Gosney opened and curated the Verbum Gallery of Digital Art in San Diego, and published Verbum Interactive, which showcased innovative multimedia technologies including digital articles with video, hyperlinks, digital audio files, and CD-Audio. Billed as the “first CD-ROM periodical,” it was hailed as a groundbreaking product, but criticized for the high cost of the equipment needed to view it, and for the slow performance of the CD-ROM technology it relied upon." Others commented that “the scope of VI, in terms of both its thematic and intellectual expanse and the level of technological expertise with which the final product was produced, is truly remarkable.”
His digital media innovations attracted the attention of Apple, Kodak, Adobe Systems, Toshiba, and Microsoft leading to collaborations in computer-related art and publishing realms, including the books The Photo CD Book (1992), a full color guide to Photo CD technology and products, developed in partnership with Kodak; Multimedia Power Tools (1993), a multimedia handbook with a CD-ROM featuring step-by-step animated instructions; and Peter Norton’s PC Guru (1998), a double CD-ROM featuring animation, video, and hypertext content offering a comprehensive guide to PC usage; and the Imagine Exhibit of Personal Computer Art, a travelling exhibition featuring a range of techniques from artists utilizing computers as tools of artistic expression. In 1991, the Los Angeles Times described the exhibit as marking “the distinction between an earlier era of computer graphics and newer computer art” and quoted Gosney on the show’s humanistic aesthetic: “We don’t want to just show off the tools, but to show off the content and creativity achieved with these tools. Computers are part of our lifestyle, like it or not. They’re everywhere. What we’re doing is celebrating the creative side of the medium. We’re carrying the flame for a really human touch to all of this.”
From 1998 to 2001, in collaboration with eMusic, he produced Radio-V.com, a weekly radio program on U.S. public and college stations and electronic music site offering digital downloads. In 2001, he partnered with Matt Marshall, founder of Higher Octave Music, to form Cyberset, a San Francisco-based record label showcasing world, ambient, dance, vocal, and urban music.
Festivals and events
In 1989, he held the first Digital Be-In, which sought to meld the ideals of the 1960s counterculture with the emerging 1990s cyberculture. Beginning as a private party held by Verbum magazine in conjunction with MacWorld Expo, it became a public event in its fourth year, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Human Be-In on January 14, 1992. Sixties counterculture icons instrumental in the original event Timothy Leary, Chet Helms, Allen Cohen, Ken Kesey, John Perry Barlow, and Ram Dass became early collaborators and featured speakers. In the ensuing years, special editions of the event were held in Tokyo in 1995 and London, England in 2005.
Notable speakers and participants in Digital Be-Ins through the years include musicians Graham Nash, Jon Anderson, and Todd Rundgren, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, philosopher Ervin László, Burning Man founder Larry Harvey, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, and Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown.
The Digital Be-In ran through 2007, with a special event on January 17, 2017 celebrating the 50th anniversary of the original Human Be-In, emceed by peace activist and Woodstock emcee Wavy Gravy and featuring video messages of peace from Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Commenting on the festival’s history in an interview with the Silicon Valley news site Pando in 2015, Gosney said, “It was a very fertile time. And, as have many of the phases of technology evolution, it was influenced greatly by the Bay Area culture. And the whole history here of the counterculture was very relevant to the early emergence of the whole cyberculture movement. And our Digital Be-In event was kind of an embodiment of that connection.”
Since, 1999, he has co-managed Earthdance International, a non-profit that coordinates the annual Earthdance multi-location global peace party, one of the world’s largest synchronized music and dance events, having been held in over 1,000 locations in eighty countries since its inception October 4, 1997.
Ecology and sustainability
An early proponent of deep ecology and green cities, Gosney has worked with cities including San Jose, CA implementing sustainability systems and dashboards, UNDESA on international programs for sustainable consumption and production, and the ecological architecture model community Arcosanti, where he produced the Paradox Conferences in 1997, 1999 and 2001, bringing together leaders in cyberculture and sustainable community development.
In 2002, he co-founded the Green Century Institute with consumer activist Marc Kasky and philanthropist Henry Dakin, an information clearinghouse for sustainable community solutions with a focus on Califia, a proposed Bay Area ecocity for 10,000 residents. The non-profit provided consulting and advisory public services and produced a range of events and workshops, including the San Francisco Green Cities Expo at UNEP World Environment Day event on June 2005.
From 2013-2015, he produced and hosted the talk radio podcast Eco-Evolution, featuring in depth interviews with thought leaders on technological solutions to ecological sustainability issues.
Gosney advocated the connection between consciousness expansion and the digital revolution through his Digital Be-In cyberculture events in San Francisco, giving Dennis Peron, Chris Conrad and other cannabis activists, and psychedelic luminaries Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner and Dennis McKenna the spotlight in the mid-90s. In a January 1999 interview with Wired magazine, he described the symbiotic relationship between entheogens and the evolution of information technology: “The vanguard of the computer industry consists of creative people, who, like any creative community, are more inclined to experiment culturally. It’s been unspoken for many years that the crown jewel of the US economy has been so influenced by ‘soft’ drugs like marijuana and LSD; now we want to stand up and be counted.”
In 2011 and 2012, he produced the San Francisco Bay Area Deep Green Conference, which featured panels on ecology and cannabis legislation and exhibitions of green cultivation techniques. He explained to Oakland’s East Bay Express that the event was part of a larger effort to educate and influence popular opinion on the role of cannabis in the burgeoning digital age: “The Deep Green Festival is part of a reimagining of cannabis’s often negative image.”
Gosney's work is informed by French theologian Teilhard de Chardin; consciousness researchers Carl Jung and Ralph Metzner; urban architect-philosopher Paolo Soleri; Biosphere 2 inventor John P. Allen; and architect and systems theorist Buckminster Fuller. Acknowledging Fuller’s influence, he titled his 2013 TEDx talk “Designing the Control Panel for Spaceship Earth,” wherein he described the humanistic and ecological dimensions of emergent information and communication technologies: “This open, self-organizing, distributed network is not unlike many designs found in the biological realm. Engineers and theorists alike began seeing the reflection of our evolving digital world in the mechanisms of nature’s distributed networks, binary codes, memory, processing codes, and feedback loops… I am convinced it is an evolutionary imperative that we build the equivalent of a control panel for Spaceship Earth, so that we can move beyond our adolescence as a species and live up to our role as stewards of this living planet and participants in the galactic ecology of living worlds.”
- The Gray Book (1990, Ventana Press)
- The Desktop Color Book (1992, MIS Press)
- The Photo CD Book (1992, Verbum Books)
- Multimedia Power Tools (1993, 2nd ed. 1995, Random House)
- The Official Photo CD Handbook (1995, Peachpit Press)
- Peter Norton's PC Guru (1998, MediaX and Verbum)
- Time magazine: “The World on a Screen.” Phillip Elmer-Dewitt. (sidebar: “Verbum Interactive”) October 21, 1991. p. 81. http://content.time.com/time/magazine/0,9263,7601911021,00.html</
- Cauruso.com. "Verbum Interactive" https://web.archive.org/web/20110929124913/http:/www.caruso.com/work/dm-index/digital-media-august-1991/verbum-interactive/
- Wired: “Everybody Must Get Stoned” https://www.wired.com/1999/01/everybody-must-get-stoned/
- MSNBC—Soledad O’Brien on the Digital Be-In https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=iwLOJ4DO2eM&feature=youtu.be
- 48 Hills https://48hills.org/2017/01/human-be-in-50th-party
- The Leaf http://theleafonline.com/c/lifestyle/2020/06/earthdance-festival-2020/
- Los Angeles Times. "Show Celebrates 'Renaissance' of Computer Art." 1990-08-31. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-08-31-ca-155-story.html
- Green Century Institute http://greencentury.institute/
- Techne Verde https://www.techneverde.org/about
- Synergetic Press http://www.synergeticpress.com/our-team/
- Artzar: Timothy Leary interviewed by Mark Katzman http://www.artzar.net/content/leary/index.html
- Zavtone magazine (Japan, 1998) Version 11.0. “The Human Issue”
- The Life and Adventures of John Muir. James Mitchell Clarke. https://academic.oup.com/foreconshist/article-abstract/25/1/53/542282?redirectedFrom=fulltext
- Buddha. Nikos Kazantzakis. https://www.amazon.com/Buddha-English-Greek-Nikos-Kazantzakis/dp/0932238149
- Deep Ecology ed. Michael Tobias. https://www.worldcat.org/title/deep-ecology/oclc/10723050
- Deep Ecology ed. Michael Tobias. https://viurrspace.ca/bitstream/handle/10613/5373/Alexander.PP.10.1.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
- Verbum (1986). Verbum 1.0 - Premier Issue. https://archive.org/details/verbum100unse
- Verbum (1991). Verbum 5.2 - Virtual Reality. https://archive.org/details/verbum.5.2.fall.winter.1991
- Dr. Future: "N:OW - Dr Future's Blog - Interview - Media Pioneer Michael Gosney on the Renaissance of Digital Multimedia". http://www.drfutureshow.com/drfutureblog/interview-media-pioneer-michael-gosney-on-the-renaissance-of.html
- Compute! Magazine Issue 127. COMPUTE Publications International Ltd. March 1991. pp. 43. https://archive.org/details/1991-03-compute-magazine
- Verbum Interactive August 1991." https://web.archive.org/web/20110929124913/http:/www.caruso.com/work/dm-index/digital-media-august-1991/verbum-interactive/
- Traugott Koch; Ingeborg T. Solvberg (11 August 2003). Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries: 7th European Conference, ECDL 2003, Trondheim, Norway, August 17-22, 2003. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 478. ISBN 978-3-540-40726-3. https://books.google.com/books?id=4TIry3vnbUQC&pg=PA478#v=onepage&q&f=false Retrieved 4 October 2015.
- Computers and Composition. Busiel, Christopher. (1993-08-01). "Verbum Interactive and Multimedia in Education." https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S875546151730141X?via%3Dihub
- Los Angeles Times. "Show Celebrates 'Renaissance' of Computer Art." 1990-08-31. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-08-31-ca-155-story.html
- Radio-V https://web.archive.org/web/20010405185335/http://radio-v.com/main/index.htm
- Cyberset Music http://www.cybersetmusic.com/about/
- Pando https://pando.com/2015/02/12/how-silicon-valleys-counterculture-went-corporate-and-ruined-everything/</
- New York Times: “Where Electronics and Art Converge.” Andrew Pollack. Sunday, September 15, 1991. https://www.nytimes.com/1991/09/15/business/where-electronics-and-art-converge.html
- Tokyo Digital Be-In https://mikikomado.com/localization/digital-be-in-tokyo/
- Los Angeles Times. “The Summer of Love, the Russian Revolution and the Super Bowl — all are marking a birthday in 2017.” https://www.latimes.com/travel/deals/la-tr-17-events-20170101-story.html
- Pando. "How Silicon Valley's Counterculture Went Corporate and Ruined Everything"https://pando.com/2015/02/12/how-silicon-valleys-counterculture-went-corporate-and-ruined-everything/
- Earthdance https://earthdance.org/story/
- Wired: “Paradox: Gathering of a Visionary Tribe.” Mike Tanner. https://www.wired.com/1997/10/paradox-gathering-of-a-visionary-tribe/
- Los Angeles Times: “Cyber-Space-Savers.” Lawrence Comras. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1997-nov-03-fi-49832-story.html
- Green Century Institute http://greencentury.institute/directors.htm
- Personal Life Media: “Living Green: Podcast #4” Meredith Medland interviews Michael Gosney http://podcasts.personallifemedia.com/podcasts/224-living-green/episodes/2920-science-fiction-action-michael-gosney
- Eco-Evolution https://www.eco-evolution.com/
- Wired: “Everybody Must Get Stoned” https://www.wired.com/1999/01/everybody-must-get-stoned/</
- Deep Green https://web.archive.org/web/20130122171715/http://www.deepgreenfest.com/
- East Bay Express: “Deep Green Festival Addresses the Environmental Paradox of Pot” by David Downes https://eastbayexpress.com/deep-green-festival-addresses-the-environmental-paradox-of-pot-1/
- TEDx Talk –Michael Gosney: “Designing the Control Panel for Spaceship Earth” https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=sfPggRXo3gs&feature=youtu.be
- [Michael Gosney profile via Techne Verde https://www.techneverde.org/about]
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