Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Teo and Larry

According to Wikipedia, "Lawrence Lessig (born June 3, 1961) is an American academic. He is currently professor of law at Stanford Law School and founder of its Center for Internet and Society. He is best known as a proponent of reduced legal restrictions on copyright, trademark and radio frequency spectrum, particularly in technology applications."

I think I met Larry when he was in Japan promoting the Japanese edition of Code and I was on a panel with him. I got to know Larry better when he was in Japan for an extended period in 2002-2003 I think. At the time, I was struggling as an activist in Japan, fighting against the broken democracy of Japan. This struggle and the advice that Larry gave me for how to think about this struggle lead me to write my Emergent Democracy paper and take my struggle to the rest of the world.

Larry is a genius at identifying how complex systems such as law, code and politics influence each other. He's able to figure out where the balance is and turn murky complex issues into sharp, understandable thoughts around which movements can rally and debates can be won. Most importantly, Larry throws himself into acting on these causes with a dedication that energizes everyone around him.

Larry has really helped me evolve from an armchair philosopher to increasingly more serious activist. When Larry asked me to join the board of Creative Commons, I was honored and shocked, concerned about whether I would be make a sufficient contribution. I was even more surprised when Larry asked me to be the chairman of Creative Commons and I'm still concerned about my ability to play the kind of role that Larry expects from me.

However, Larry hasn't left me with much slack or time to wallow in my lack of confidence and the combination of his confidence and firm leadership is pushing me to have to grown quickly into my new position.

Larry is the mentor of mine who sets the standard of high-quality, no-compromise dedication to our higher causes, showing that there is no issue too complex or large that we can't make a difference with enough commitment, persistence and focus.

Justin and Pixley

According to Wikipedia, "Justin Hall (born December 16, 1974 in Chicago, Illinois), is an American freelance journalist who is best known as a pioneer blogger (internet-based diarist), and for writing reviews from game conferences such as E3 and the Tokyo Game Show."

I don't know exactly how I officially met Justin, but it was probably through Howard Rheingold or something back in the early early days of the Web. (Howard is one of Justin's mentors.) Justin had a site called Justin's Links from the Underground. It was the first website of his kind where he wrote about his life. This was a great inspiration for my own website which was also one of the earlier personal websites.

Suddenly, Justin decided to move to Japan in 2001 and lived there/here until January 2003. In Japan, we grew closer and he became a closer friend of the family. It was during this period that Justin convinced me to dump my old hand-coded website and switch to Movable Type. Justin was the first webmaster of my blog and is the one who got me started blogging. He was also the one who recommended that we use Movable Type. (Thanks Justin!)

When he was in Japan, he wrote Just In Tokyo, a crazy guide to Japan.

Justin eventually moved to Los Angeles where he studied at USC in Scott's department and recently graduated. In LA he became a member of Mimi and Scott's extended family together with Merci and Pixley Wigglebottom. Pixley is like Justin's doggy twin.

Recently, Justin has become an entrepreneur as he begins to build some structure around his passively multiplayer online game. I'm trying to help him out with this process.

I've really been enjoying watching Justin develop over the years, never losing his super-happy, honest, fun and spazzy core. He's one of the most lovable bundles of energy that I know. He's also great because he's always pushing me to be more social and proactive.

Pearl and Howard Rheingold

According to Wikipedia, "Howard Rheingold (born July 7, 1947) is a critic and writer; his specialties are on the cultural, social and political implications of modern communication media such as the Internet, mobile telephony and virtual communities (a term he is credited with inventing)."

I met Howard a long time ago by Internet standards - in the early 1980's... before The Web. *gasp* We were both heavily involved in online services and their forums like The Source, CompuServe, The Meta Network, Delphi and others. We were both part of an organization called "The Electronic Network Association". I think that Howard was the editor of the Whole Earth Review back then. I was still in High School and Howard was a distant guru-like figure for me back then.

Later, when I moved to (part of my base) to San Francisco, I got to know Howard better and he became one of my cyber-gurus who together with Timothy Leary, taught me the history of the Hippy and New Age movements and got me plugged into that corner of the San Francisco universe.

Howard has invited me to his home a number of times for long chats while walking in the mountains or sitting in his garden. Listening to Howard talk about his garden and his life in this environment is super-inspiring and is one of the main reasons that I've recently thrown myself into trying to grow my own food and make my own compost.

Howard is incredibly well read and has provided me with more life-changing books than anyone else I know and has recently succeeded in getting me to start drawing and thinking of art in a new light. This has been a big factor in my increased attention to the quality of my photography.

Howard contributed to my business history as well. In 1993, Howard wrote about me in an article in Wired and also mentioned me in his book, The Virtual Community. Cyrus Shaoul, a fellow ASIJ graduate, read the article and sent me an email about wanting to get together. This eventually led to the formation of Eccosys, my first successful company.

Scott Fisher

According to Wikipedia, "Scott Fisher is Professor and Chair of the Interactive Media Division in the USC School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, and a Fellow of the the Annenberg Center for Communication there. He is an artist and technologist who has worked extensively on virtual reality, including stints at NASA, Atari Research Labs, MIT's Architecture Machine Group and Keio University."

When I first moved to California, Timothy Leary, who I had recently met in Tokyo, picked me up at LAX and took me to his house where he had a party and introduced me to his network and extended family in Los Angeles. That weekend, Tim drove my sister, mother and me to San Francisco where he organized a party for us at the Mondo 2000 house. He introduced us to a huge number of people at that party. We first met Scott at that party.

Scott had either just set up or was setting up Telepresence Research, a virtual reality (VR) research company. I was very interested in VR at the time and VR was actually how I first connected with Tim. Scott was looking at Japan as an important market so I joined Telepresence Research part time to help Scott with business development in Japan.

This position mostly involved helping Scott and his partner at Telepresence Research at the time, Brenda Laurel, set up meetings in Japan and providing translations for their presentations at these meetings for them. It was a great way to learn about VR as well as meet all of the people doing cool things in Japan in this space.

During this period, I was mostly living in Japan and my sister started a program at Stanford. Before I knew it, Scott and Mimi were a "thing" and Scott became my brother-in-law. In Japanese, if you marry a younger sister, you are considered a "younger brother-in-law" and in most formal settings are required to walk behind the older brother etc. I tease Scott to no end about this.

But Scott's a great brother-in-law and has become one of my closest confidants and best friends.


May 31, 2006 - 10 years since Timothy Leary's death
March 20, 1995 - Hanging out with Timothy Leary

John Perry Barlow

According to Wikipedia, "John Perry Barlow (born October 3, 1947) is an American poet, essayist, retired Wyoming cattle rancher, political activist and former lyricist for the Grateful Dead."

Barlow is one of my best friends who connects to a large number of my different networks. I first met Barlow through Timothy Leary. Timothy was always generous with his network and Barlow was one of the first people Tim introduced me to. Barlow became a friend of the family and we spent a lot of time together.

Barlow and I have talked a lot through the years about the differences in our cultures as well as the similarities. Barlow introduced me to a whole part of America that was previously unknown to me. He took me to my first and only Grateful Dead show at Shoreline. I visited Barlow at his home in Pinedale, Wyoming where we drove through a double rainbow in one of the most memorable of drives through American scenery that I can remember.

At his home, we schemed about writing a book, but we were not able to stay focused long enough to get it going.

Lately, we invite each other to conferences and run into each other like randomly molecules bumping into each other in brownian motion. He is one of the few people who travel as much as I do.


May 31, 2006 - 10 years since Timothy Leary's death
March 20, 1995 - Hanging out with Timothy Leary