In the age of information overload, the ultimate luxury is meaning and context, says the editorial to Wired. Inside its 112 full-colour pages, it attempts to provide some. How well does it succeed?
Created for the tech-smart digital generation and claiming Marshall Mcluhan as its patron saint, Wired eschews the slow-crawl-from-'zinedom option, banging straight in with a 175,000 print run premiere issue (launched at January' MacWorld, which slightly devalues its further claim not to be a
It also arrives with a great deal of financial and editorial credibility, being part-financed by Nicholas Negroponte, head of MIT's Media Lab (a planned regular columnist), and Charlie Jackson, founder of Silicon Beach software and including a good smattering of 'name' writers: Bruce Sterling (on virtual war); an interview with McLuhan-wannabe Camille Paglia, by Stewart Brand (Whole Earth Review founder and author of The Media Lab); John Browning, a former Economist technology writer (on electronic libraries) and computer writer John Markoff (on cell phone hacking).
The editor/publisher is Louis Rossetto, former ed/pub of Electric Word, the Amsterdam-based cult (i.e. closed) computer magazine from the late 80s. KevinKelly – also from the Whole Earth posse - is executive editor.
Pitched stylisticaly somewhere between BusinessWeek and Mondo 2000, the magazine is the first serious launch in the difficult to pin-down but potentially lucrative market that exists at the interface between underground and overground (although the subscription card leaves no doubt which side of the turf it's aiming at with questions such as: Annual revenue of your company? (tick boxes from less than 45 million to over $1 billion).
Besides 'name' pieces, there are shorter features on photonic computing (light quanta replacing electrons) and ubiquitous computing (chips-with-everything); an interview with morph-meisters PDI (creators of Michael Jackson's Black or White video); an article on Otaku (the same one used by The Face last year, which quotes chunks of Mediamatic's two-year-old story - unacknowledged); an excellent piece on the future of electronic schooling by Louis Perelman.
There is also an 8-page Street Cred section, and a few other bits and pieces such as a fascinating 'interactivity matrix (plotting interactivity against vividness of media) compiled by a Stanford researcher and an in-and-out list (Tired vs Wired).
The only bummers are a much too long, quite tedious (to non-Americans, anyway) investigative conspiracy theory and a rather limp article on virtual sex – but I'm quibbling.
The whole thing comes packaged in a fashionable matt cover and illustrated in muted aceed tones. The writing is lively and varied – if a little prone to flippant West Coast tech-naivity – and does indeed provide a good deal of meaning and context.
Verdict: an attractive and confident launch for a well-positioned and nicely put together magazine. Wired treats the expanding technological domain shared by hackers and forward-thinking members of the business world with the respect and significance it deserves. It should do well.