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The Digital Be-In is an ongoing San Francisco-based event that began with a mission to carry forth the ethos and values expressed at the 1960s' Human Be-In, and bring them into the world of multimedia and Internet technology. It served a role through the 1990s as a venue for the San Francisco Bay Area's community of new media pioneers to socialize and exchange ideas. Cyberculture became the focal point of the gatherings. However, producer Michael Gosney also brought in key figures from the Human Be-In such as Allen Cohen, Chet Helms and Timothy Leary to maintain the 60s influence, as well as 60s icons Ken Kesey, Ram Dass and Wavy Gravy. The most recent event (Digital Be-In 16: ECOCITY) was held 2008-04-28.
In the early years, it drew major companies as sponsors, such as Apple, Microsoft, Adobe Systems and Kodak, while at the same time staying an underground party. After 1997 and after the year 2000, the event started to show maturity. The production team organized socially conscious themes that began catching on with the Be-In attendees, to the point where the symposium for the 2006 theme, Planet Code, had as large an audience as the party that followed it.
Inspired by the 1967 Human Be-In, the first Digital Be-In was held on January 21, 1989 in San Francisco, as a party for Verbum magazine, an early digital art magazine. Verbum president, Michael Gosney, promoted digital media and early desktop publishing as a way to continue the countercultural ideas that were begun during the original Be-In and the Summer of Love, while underscoring the visionary and humanistic components of cyberculture.
Computer-industry people and underground artists came together at the first Digital Be-In to celebrate the emergent electronic art and design medium, entertained by a combination of music and visuals. At subsequent events, Gosney also involved co-founders of the Human Be-In, Allen Cohen, Chet Helms, Timothy Leary and John Perry Barlow.
Verbum held 10 consecutive Be-Ins during Macworld Conference & Expo every January until 1998. During the 3rd year, Allen Cohen showcased a hardcover volume of the entire run of the SF Oracle issues. In its 4th year, the event occurred on the 25th Anniversary of the Human Be-In. That 4th event, called the New Human Be-In, became the first public event. Although Wired Magazine editor Gary Wolf belittled the presence so-called smart drugs, he acknowledged that the New Human Be-In was one of the rare occasions that year where the Bay Area's community of "gadget-lovers and artists, programmers and entrepreneurs" gathered in person.
In 1995, the official name was shortened from Digital Art Be-In simply to Digital Be-In. Additionally that year, Verbum organized a Be-In in Tokyo. There they had a video tape message from Timothy Leary, a presentation on the links between the 1960s counterculture of the Bay Area and the personal computer revolution, a Digital Art Gallery, and the Digital Frontier included exhibits by avant garde multimedia publishers.
Through the 1990s, the Be-In went on to feature the development of new technology and digital art alongside immersive light shows. Projections combined original 1960s artists' analog work with video effects and 3D digital animation. In 1996, the 8th Be-In took its next step and started netcasting.
In 1997, Digital Be-In 9 matured with the introduction of a political theme, "Cultural Diversity in Cyberspace." Number 10 was themed "Human Rights in Cyberspace" and number 11 was "Body, Mind and Cyberspace." Then there was a break for the millennium. Number 12 resumed in 2002, under the theme "Media Revolution," number 13, "The Transparent Network" was in 2005, number 14, "Planet Code," happened on Earth Day, April 22, 2006, and "Ecocity" was held April 25, 2008.
- Tune in, drop out. Rewired online journal.
- Be-In Digital. Atlantic Monthly article.
- Everybody must get stoned. Wired magazine article.
- The way we were. Wired magazine article.
- Be-In Website
- Digital Be-In History
- Live from the Digital Be-In. A report by Ken Kesey Intrepid Trips.
- Allen Cohen biography
- Turn on. Tune in. Take charge. Lawrence Hagerty's Be-In 12 speech.
- Be-In Now. Be-In 13 blog.
- Grokking the transparent network. Common Ground story.
- Notes from the Digital Be-In. Futuresalon blog entry.
- Planet Code Digital Be-In. Onevillage blog entry.
- Back from the Digital Be-In. Technologist Eric Magnuson's blog entry.