Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Recently in the People Category

I first met Karole Armitage at a dinner Tod Machover's home. (Tod is a faculty member at the Media Lab.) Karole was a perfect candidate for the Director's Fellows program and she agreed to join us.

Karole describes herself as a former "punk ballerina" and through dance and movement is able to connect so many interesting ideas and worlds. She's already started to actively collaborate with a number of people at the Lab. In this conversation we discuss some of those collaborations as well as some new ideas.

Audio is available on SoundCloud and iTunes.

Shibuya Toyoko Line I ended the work day with a study group and an expert guest where we discussed the Japanese legal system. Although there were some small signs of hope, I find that the more I learn about how things really work, the more pessimistic I get about causing actual change in Japan.

As I pondered the futility of revolutionary activities in Japan, I jogged to try to catch the train to connect to the commuter train for my 1.5 hr shlep back to my home. As I entered the station, I noticed an unusually large crowd of people on the platform.

The PA system announced a delay due to an accident. Japan has over 30,000 suicides a year (one of the highest rates in the world) and 800 or so of them as a result of “train accidents”. As I crammed myself into the standing-room-only train full of drunken businessmen, tired “office ladies” and shriveled old people, I thought about what kind of person might have jumped in front of the train this time.

As we approached the station where the accident occurred, the train came to a stop and the conductor apologized again for the delay. They shut down the motors as we waited and the everyone was silent and still. As I looked around at the tired people with their blank looks, it felt like we were all involuntarily mourning the death of another person in Japanese society who had to give up.

When I arrived at at my home train station, Mizuka was there to pick me up. I shared my depressing thoughts and she scolded me for being so down. When we got home, our dog Pookie yapped away and almost blew these thoughts away, but I decided to share them with you anyway.


We did another photo walk the other day. This time we wandered around Shibuya. I just realized that I didn’t blog about it. I posted my set to Flickr and you can see the images of the rest of the photographers tagged with ccphotowalk071111. Thanks to everyone who participated and special thanks to Fumi and Mika for organizing everything.

Dancers in Niigata Got back yesterday from the Enjin01 event in Niigata. The theme of this year’s event was laughter. (Flickr set here.)

Enjin01 is a Japanese non-profit that I helped start. It is a funny mishmash of people including artists, business people, politicians, academics, journalists, novelists… just about every kind of background you can imagine. It is a membership organization with about 180 people. It is a totally volunteer organization and no one gets paid for talks we give or activities we participate in and it is funded by membership fees from the members and corporate donations. Some members give a percentage of their normal lecture fees to the organization as well. I was involved in the selection of members and setting up the organization a lot at the beginning, but am mostly just a member now.

One of the activities that we do is go teach at Jr. High Schools that want us to go. Any Jr. High School can sign up for us to dispatch teachers on our websie. I blogged about this earlier. We also have a group that focuses on trying to change government policy, especially in the area of taxation of donations to non-profits.

The main activity of Enjin01 is to organize an annual meeting in a different region of Japan each year. Most of the members attend this annual meeting. The meeting is organized into a few plenary talks, a bunch of workshops and panels, and a “yagaku” where we go to dinner with people from the local community. We also usually have a closed meeting where the members meet an invited guest.

The program committee assigns the participant members to various panels and different “yagaku”. This year, I was assigned to a panel about IT, which is par for the course.

I was also assigned to be on a panel at a workshop lead by Koichi Inakoshi to learn about and actually participate in photographing a nude model. I had never photographed a nude model before so I was quite nervous at the beginning. Mr. Inakoshi started by explaining that we should think about the beauty of the model and imagine looking at our own bodies while we are bathing. He told us to try to imagine and see the beauty of the human body. After showing us some of his nude images, he told us to try taking photographs ourselves.

The audience was also invite to participate. The audience probably consisted of 50% women and maybe 50% of them over 40 years old. The panel, which I was on, chose a number of winning photos. One of the women who won a prizes was wearing a kimono. I wish I had a photo of the woman in a kimono photographing a nude model. ;-)

One side-effect of this session was that I ended up with some nude photographs. I posted them in Flickr flagged as “Moderate” and “Hide this photo from public searches”. I still got a few people telling me that they were surprised and a thread started on one of my photos about nudes and sensitivity about nude images. After reading a bunch of posts about nude vs naked, I realized this is an old and deep discussion online. The collapsed context of the Internet forces us to deal with these cultural differences in a very real way. With nudes, I find that even in the same society, there is a very wide range of sensitivity levels. One curious thing is why people turn “safe mode” off when they don’t want to see nudes…

Charles Robert Jenkins The special guest for the closed member meeting this year was Charles Robert Jenkins, the former US Army soldier who lived in North Korea for 39 years. He gave us a very candid and real account of his time in North Korea and while some of the facts and assertions were interesting and shocking, his personal account of his day-to-day life in North Korea left the strongest impression. He now lives in Niigata, Japan.

The “yagaku” can be hit or miss, but this year it was a lot of fun. The deal with the “yagaku” is that we choose a dozen or so local restaurants and several members are assigned to each venue. Then all of the local people are invited to join us to dinner where we are the hosts. We learn a lot about the local culture and they get to spend “quality time” with us. This year, I sat with a number of women who had worked in Tokyo at companies like Fujitsu and Intel but returned to Niigata after getting married. We talked about how to use the net to “stay in the loop”.

Ken Mogi One of the highlights of the event was getting to hear Ken Mogi speak and having time to chat with him a bit. In addition to being one of the most brilliant people I know, it turns out that he has a very funny and rich personality.

Next year, we will be holding the event in Nagoya. Anyone is welcome to join us.

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Joi with Timothy Leary terminus
Me with Timothy Leary's terminus made of his mortal remains

As Timothy once said, "everyone out there gets the Timothy Leary they deserve". WAV File

Today, I did an interview with agent etoy.Monorom and agent etoy.Silvan for their Mission Eternity project. My job was to channel Timothy Leary who is one of the test pilots of the project. The project involves a terminus made from the mortal remains of Timothy which are connected to a sarcophagus installation. It keeps track of and maintains a network of volunteer angels who keep his archival identity parts alive on the Net. In many ways it is still a work in progress and I was contributing in my own way.

I had told etoy that several of us had had experiences in the past where Tim asked us to channel him. When he was busy or needed to do other things, I would be asked to play his role by answering questions and explaining thoughts. I was working on a book with him at the time and would talk about the ideas from our book, The New Breed. Most silly questions looking for an answer were responded to with a, "think for yourself!" In the past, I did these interviews in chatrooms with Tim often in the next room so it wasn't that hard to imagine what Tim would say. Now 10 years after his death, I had to think a deeply about what Tim would think about the current state of affairs and try to play this role.

It was a lot of fun.

While I was preparing for this, I reflected on Wikipedia where someone edited a comment on my Wikipedia article from "Ito is Timothy Leary's God Son." to "Ito has claimed that he was one of Timothy Leary's so-called 'God Sons'". Someone nice edited it back eventually. Also, somewhere along the line, my name was also scrubbed from Timothy's article as well. I realize that to some people my relationship with Tim is not notable or interesting and possible annoying. I don't really feel like being greedy about it at all. It just feels a bit sad that something I said on my blog has been reduced to a claim that looks like some kind of heavy name dropping...

As I thought about this more, I remembered the quote from Tim. I also remembered that Tim touched people deeply and made them feel special. I think EVERYONE he touched directly or through his work came up with their own Tim. I don't feel I have any right to take away from that. However, I think that it would be great if we can understand Tim as the aggregate of all of our Tim's and somehow come together to help him come back to life through our memories. I really think that this is what etoy is trying to do with Mission Eternity and that makes me happy.

What's amazing to me now is that as more and more information becomes available online and we are able to talk to each other about our memories... Tim can come back to life instead of fading and through us, maybe he becomes much larger than what he could be if he were all in one piece right now. I look forward to working together to bring back his spirit instead of bickering over the pieces and the details of the past.

Update: Chris found a video of Timothy calling me his godson. Thanks Chris!

Tom's Intimate Contact Based on the true story of Tom Coates

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Tom Coates Comic

The saga of Tom Coates will continue…

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Tom Coates Tom Coates

Fiona and danah Fiona and danah

I’m at one of my favorite meetings of the year - the Microsoft Research Social Computing Symposium.

It’s being streamed here: - open in VLC as MMS

We also have an IRC back-channel on

Also hanging out on #joiito as usual…

Uploading photos in a Flickr set.

Jun Murai Jun Murai giving opening remarks

It started at noon today Japan time, but don’t miss Mozilla 24, a 24 hour global event organized by Mozilla.

Gerfried Stocker
Gerfried Stocker

Other than being 7 degrees celcius and raining most of the time, Ars Electronica this year was a lot of fun. It was packed full of work for me this week with five talks and ten media interviews, but with Sandra, Elizabeth and Fumi's help, everything went smoothly and I survived. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to see all of the installations or talk to as many artists as I would have liked, but I had more than enough interesting conversations to make it great.

I went to Ars Electronica this year together with the MOGA unit which is a collaboration between Professor Inakage's lab, Joi's lab (mostly Fumi) and Hiroyuki Nakano's Peacedelic team. MOGA set up the "Jump" installation in Linz. Yuichiro Katsumoto, also from Professor Inakage's lab presented Amagatana. It was fun seeing the students I had been working with in the Ars Electronica context.

I think that most of the talks will end up online somewhere, but I'm not sure where. ;-) I did see one video interview on

The theme of this year's Ars Electronica was privacy.

The first session I participated in was with the Austrian Association and Judges and members from the Ars Electronica community. I talked broadly about the generation gap and the how the behavior and use of the technology was very different among the new users of the Internet and how difficult it was, yet how important it was, for the older generation to try to understand the way the new generation used the new medium. I was really impressed in the conversations with some of the judges and how forward looking they were. I also talked about the importance of Global Voices in the future of global democracy. I suppose that federal judges can think more long term about democracy and things like the cost of privacy than their politician brothers. Having smart judges is a great thing as the recent ruling by the 10th Circuit Court in the US shows.

Summer Watson
Summer Watson

The second session I participated in was a discussion about future trends with some of corporate executives. It was a good group with a number of interesting presentation. The presentation that was the most interesting to me was Summer Watson, a British soprano opera singer, who announced that she is going to ski the last degree (from 89 to 90) of the North Pole and sing an Aria at the North pole as a call to action on environmental issues.

I had coffee with her afterwards and we talked a lot about Creative Commons and online identities and was inspired to start the Summer Watson Wikipedia article.

I also did a session about WoW which I think you can imagine without me going into too much detail.

Volker Grassmuck
Volker Grassmuck

I did a session with Leonard Dobusch to talk about importance of Free Networks and Free Knowledge. Again, I'm sure readers of this blog can imagine what my position was. Leonard, who is also the son of the Mayor of Linz, had some interesting perspectives on the role of municipal governments in supporting public access. He had co-edited a book recently where they discussed many of these issues. He cited an article by Volker Grassmuck where Volker argued that having a public space for hosting content on the web was important.

Finally, I was on a panel as part of a awards ceremony and a kick-off meeting for Fair Music. The idea behind Fair Music was sort of a music parallel for the Fair Trade mark. Whereas the Fair Trade mark tries to identify products where the production meets basic Fair Trade parameters and requirements, Fair Music marks were awarded to companies and projects where the artists and consumers were treated fairly. Fair in this context means a number of things including the artist receiving a fair share of the remuneration or the project promoting diversity against the bias of "Northern" dominance in the music business.

I mostly talked about the need for new business models and the role of Creative Commons in this context.

I uploaded my photos a Flickr set.

Performing Gion Kouta

Just got back from visiting Kyoto with Reid, Michelle and Mizuka.

Posted some photos to a Flickr set. Also posted a short chat with Reid about venture business in China and Japan in mp3 (8.9 MB) and ogg (15.3 MB) formats.

View from Shanghai JW Marriott

Just returned from a trip to China with Reid, Michelle, Ellen and Kazuya organized by Leonard Liu and his team.

We met with VCs, entrepreneurs and a few of my old friends.

I was in Shanghai a few years ago just as the US VCs were starting to set up offices in Shanghai. Things have clearly moved forward a notch. The first wave of entrepreneurs have exited their successful ventures and are now on their second or third venture. The VCs seem to have a community. More and more US educated Chinese seem to be returning.

There are many things about the Chinese venture scene that remind me of the Japanese venture scene. There are clearly fewer experienced VCs and entrepreneurs compared to Silicon Valley. Many of the people are copying US models - some with a great deal of success.

The Chinese market in general reminds me of Japan during the bubble. Everyone hugely optimistic, explosion of spending, explosion of brands and luxury goods, investors from all over the place flocking to participate. While the dynamics are quite different and the market much larger in many ways, I see some of the similar indicators of irrational exuberance as well.

When we launched a lot of our ventures in Japan like Internet advertising, ecommerce and other things that were going strong in the US, we typically overestimated the short term growth for Japan. I have to give Reid credit for triggering this thought, but I now think that it is possible that many entrepreneurs may be overestimating how easy it is going to be to get Internet ads and ecommerce going in China. On the other hand, even very narrow nitchy markets in China are HUGE so it's possible to build pretty big business with a narrow focus compared to what you can do in the US or Japan.

I'm still not sure what we're going to end up doing in China if anything, but I'll keep you posted. Thanks for everyone who took time in their busy schedules to meet with us and share thoughts. Thanks especially to Leonard, John, Vivian and Stefanie for organizing such a great trip!

I organized my photos into the Shanghai part and the Beijing part.

Just got home from Aspen and Taipei. Thanks to everyone for all the fun.

Shona Brown
Shona Brown in Aspen

Benjamin Mako Hill
Benajamin Mako Hill at Wikimania 2007 in Taipei

I've uploaded my photos as Flickr sets - Aspen Institute 2007 and Wikimania 2007.

Ryuichi Sakamoto

According to Wikipedia, "Ryuichi Sakamoto (坂本 龍一 Sakamoto Ryūichi, born January 17, 1952, Nakano, Tokyo, Japan) is an Academy Awards-winning, Grammy-winning, Golden Globe-winning Japanese musician, composer, producer and actor, based in New York and Tokyo."

I first met Ryuichi Sakamoto in 1997. Of course I knew of him having been a HUGE fan. Like many Japanese my age, Yellow Magic Orchestra defined an era of our youth where video games, anime and technology merged in the 80’s. YMO made us feel cool, global and different from our parents.

Timothy Leary and I talked a lot about YMO in the context of our discussions and plans to write a book about the New Breed of Japanese youth. [I recently wrote about how I met Tim.] Tim died in 1996, but apparently he had told Ryuichi that he should look me up.

I still have the email from January 26, 1997 where Ryuichi says that Tim had urged him to meet me at some point. Ryuichi invited me to visit his home in New York to chat sometime. I think that I ended up visiting Ryuichi at his place for the first time in April 1997.

I still remember the feeling that we all get when we first meet someone who we have been looking at in posters and album jackets in our room through our formative years. I was extremely excited and nervous and didn’t know what to expect.

Ryuichi turned out to be a down-to-earth, smart and super-curious guy who wanted to talk about computers, the Internet and the future. We talked about everything from computer generated music to PGP encryption. We hit it off and both agreed that Internet was changing everything.

Through the rest of the 90’s we worked on a bunch of things together. Among other things, he joined the advisory board of Neoteny and I joined his advisory board when he worked to invite the Dalai Lama to Japan. There was also a period where I was clubbing a lot and Ryuichi and I bounced around Tokyo together sometimes. We also took aikido lessons together and sometimes spontaneously sparred in awkward locations. As they say, “those were the days...”

In 1999 Ryuichi worked on the Media Artists Association which was a group to try to promote artists rights for new media artists and musicians which I tried to help with.

Right after the September 11 attacks, Ryuichi spoke out strongly in an appeal to not diminish human rights in response to the terrorist attacks. At the time, this was a very unpopular notion and I remember Ryuichi’s enormous bravery in speaking out about this as a foreigner living in New York City.

Later, Ryuichi launched a campaign against the plans to begin the war on Iraq. Again, he was way too early to get too much general support, but he persevered with this, at the time, unpopular position, putting his reputation and career on the line. In retrospect, I think we all should have listened to him more and made more noise.

Ryuichi has also been an outspoken environmentalist for as long as I’ve known him. I first heard about carbon offsets when Ryuichi started offsetting the carbon footprint of his concerts years ago. Recently he worked to try to stop a nuclear recycling plant in Rokkashomura and has launched a new projected called More Trees to help offset carbon and help support projects to plant more trees.

Ryuichi has always been early and strong in taking positions about political and social issues. I think a lot of this comes from his active participation in the student movements in Japan in the 60’s and 70’s.

These days, the student uprisings of the 60’s and 70’s are considered uncool. I remember in the 90’s fashion became rather fake and shallow and being serious or an activist was considered boring and stupid. People like Ryuichi and Ryu Murakami (a mutual friend who Ryuichi introduced me to) are some of the few people who are able be fashionable and activists at the same time.

Ryuichi’s adherence to his social principles while still retaining a super-high sense of taste and artistic quality have influenced me heavily. I have tried to model my life in many ways after his in terms of balancing creative and social endeavors. However, I still lack his his courage in calling out the unpopular issues early and loudly although I think I’m improving.

I think Ryuichi is a role model for us all in many ways and I’m really proud and happy to have him as my friend.

Mizuka and Kaoru
Mizuka and Kaoru 2007

When I was born in Kyoto my father was still at Kyoto University studying under the late Kenichi Fukui. My grandparents on both sides had been against their marriage - my father a merchant class boy from Kansai shunned as lower-class by my mother's noble family from Northern Japan. My father's family wanted him to marry someone who was healthier and more likely to be a hard-working member of their family. Because of this, my parents were rather poor, lacking any support from their families. We lived in a dumpy home and they struggled to make ends meet.

Kenichi Fukui's wife, Tomoe, had a brother who knew people in the Geisha district, Gion. Through this connection my mother was able to get a job teaching English to geisha and maiko in Gion. They called her "Momoko-sensei". She taught at a geisha teahouse called Minoya.

Later, we moved to the US. Kaoru, the teenage daughter of the mistress and owner of Minoya wanted to visit the US. My parents agreed to let Kaoru come and stay with us for six months or so in exchange for baby-sitting. Kaoru was 18 and I was 3.

Joi and Kaoru Grand Canyon
Me and Kaoru at Yellow Stone National Park

We were so poor that my father once scolded Kaoru for eating too much food. ;-) Kaoru returned to Kyoto and eventually took over the family business of the geisha teahouse which she continues to run today.

I kept in touch with Kaoru over the years and I have made a habit of popping down to Kyoto whenever I can to see her and my other friends there. Kaoru is my guide and interface to Kyoto. She reminds me that when I visit a famous philosopher's house, that I should NOT, even when asked twice, actually accept the invitation for tea. She tells me how to deal with restaurant owners, geisha, maiko and monks... without her, I would never be able to navigate the exceedingly complex social system of Kyoto.

She still treats me like a 3 year old boy sometimes and embarrasses me to no end by continuing to call me by my baby name, "Jon-bon"... which as a result is my name among all of the geisha of Gion. The benefit, however, is that many of the geisha and maiko are like family. Even though I only lived in Kyoto as a baby, Kaoru and my geisha and maiko friends in Kyoto really help me continue to feel like Kyoto is my home. They provide me with an essential culture backbone to my Japanese nationality.

Keigo Oyamada aka Cornelius

According to Wikipedia, "Cornelius (born Keigo Oyamada (小山田圭吾) January 27, 1969 in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, Japan) is a Japanese recording artist and producer. Oyamada's first claim to fame was as a member of the pop duo, Flipper's Guitar, one of the key groups of the Tokyo Shibuya-kei scene. Following the disbandment of Flipper's Guitar in 1991, Oyamada donned the "Cornelius" moniker and embarked on a successful solo career."

Keigo's mother is my mother's cousin. Keigo's grandmother moved to Tokyo in her youth while my grandmother stayed in Northern Japan to run our household. Keigo and his cousins became our local "family" when we moved to Tokyo since my first cousins were either in Northern Japan or in the US. When we used to get together as an extended family, our older cousins used to cheat us out of our allowance and everyone used to tease Keigo because he was always the funny little kid.

As we became teenagers, we hung out a lot and listened to music together. We listen to a lot of stuff like Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Clash. When both of our families were going through a somewhat difficult financial period and his mother was working for my mother, we both lived in a dumpy old love hotel in Shibuya that had been converted to a dumpy old apartment.

Keigo was in Jr. High School at the time. He had a little cult following in his school, some kid writing a school comic strip about Keigo and his escapades. (If I remember this correctly...) I remember his mom being called into school regularly to make Keigo apologies for random things... I don't remember the details. I remember him practicing the guitar all the time and talking about starting a band.

One day, I heard that his band was a huge hit - Flippers Guitar, his first band. As they say, after that it's history... Keigo's music has evolved and it always involves a humble, funny and experimental attitude. I see his awesome mother, our humble teenage environment and our playful family in his music. I remember hearing that NHK had invited him to be a judge on a music show. When the host asked Keigo what he thought, he pointed out that the host had a nose hair sticking out and Keigo wasn't invited back... I guess she didn't think it was very funny.

Now Keigo has a wife, house, a super-cute kid and has mellowed a bit with age. On the other hand, his music aged well and continues to inspire me to experiment and remain playful. We're hoping to collaborate more directly more and he's helping with Creative Commons these days.

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

I've been musing about putting together a book of photos or something and have been experimenting with various printing services like Lulu. Recently Carl Malamud pushed me to go forward with this idea. I decided that instead of waiting getting some sort of final book thing, I'd start by just posting Flickr portraits on this blog and writing blurbs about the people in a new "people" category on my blog.

Later, I can decide whether this ends up in something worthy of a book. I've been contributing my photos to people's Wikipedia entries, but I think this form allows me to be a bit more personal about what I can say about the people and provides the reader with the PoV that is absent by design in Wikipedia.

Also, if I do ever end up putting together a book, I might include things the comments so feel free to post things you think might be good to add on that person's page. Also, I guarantee that the book will be CC BY licensed and available for download as well. Of course it will be available here as it unfolds.

Hopefully, this new project will help me get back into tending for my blog. ;-)