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austin - Jon Lebkowsky

I first met Jon after he had come to town for some EFF conference and then stayed long enough to catch one of our COBRA LOUNGE shows. I soon discovered that we shared a taste for the odd and unusual. He was the first person to tell me about the Austin Robot Group. A year later, I was invited down there for RoboFest, and remember well, a spirited discussion we, along with Jon's cohorts in Fringeware Magazine, had in an Austin BarBQ house. Austin was awash with talented folks. Like New Orleans, it had a religious zeal for great music. Add to that a wonderful green environment and a whole mess of crazy techno freaks and you begin to see Austin as a city of unlimited potentials. Jon was deeply Texan, at once gentle and fiercely libertarian. When it came time to look for someone who could grab the pulse of the Texas Techno Community , I knew right away that Jon should be onboard. As always, his response was generous and swift.

- Mark Petrakis

I came to the Internet by way of the WELL; though for years my tech friends seemed to think I had a clear affinity for things digital, my ears didn't perk up 'til the BBS scene and networking in general proved that you could use the beast to COMMUNICATE...and that's what I'm about. I was a writer who'd forsaken journalism to work instead as a caseworker, and my writing never really took off 'til I could place it in a fairly immediate interactive context.

Over the years I've studied and worked several threads within 'technoculture,' including cyberpunk science fiction, fringeware, cyborganics, transcendent global consciousness (a concept that resonates with long-ago studies of Teilhard de Chardin) and online activism. I'm working now with Austin artist Bob Anderson and others on a project called Virtual Bonfire, an attempt to define a net-based activism that eschews ideology and partisan politics, focusing on issues of freedom (esp. individual freedom in collective context), diversity, and ethics.

I've worked with publications such as bOING-bOING, Mondo 2000, Whole Earth Review, and Fringe Ware Review (which I cofounded), and I helped edit a few pages of the Millennium Whole Earth Catalog. I'm currently hosting an activists' forum at HotWired, hosting conferences on the WELL, and organizing Cyber Rights '96, a conference to be held in Austin and Houston in September.

When Mark and Howard contacted me about this project, it was totally the right thing at the right time...I'd been feeling profound concern over the diminution of online community in favor of commercial interactions where interactivity may be present, but only in a context manipulated by the overriding commercial concern. Though Electric Minds is a commercial endeavor and profit is essential to sustain the endeavor, I think we're all focused on community first, and this gives me hope...

Jon L.

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