Michael Gosney, an early Internet philosopher who introduced Ken Kesey to technology pioneers in San Francisco, died at the age of 67.

Michael Gosney, an early Internet philosopher who introduced Ken Kesey to technology pioneers in San Francisco, died at the age of 67.


Michael Gosney was a seventh grade student in Shawnee, Canada during Human Be-In on January 14, 1967 and unfortunately missed it. But on the 25th anniversary of this historic day at Golden Gate Park, Gosney gave his own modern flair by producing the Digital Be-In.

This hippie encounter with technicians at the South of Market art gallery proved to be more enduring than the one-off Be-In, and Gosney demonstrated 18 of these large geekathons over the next 30 years. He was also the curator of the Green Street Alley, a cannabis scene on the How Weird Street Faire, and was a trance DJ at Burning Man.

Gosney, who made a living as a publisher of books, periodicals and multimedia, had a rare combination of features that turned out to be a nerd on a personal computer and a charismatic party planner. His longest event was the Goz Salon, a think-tank and speakers’ office, held in the living room of his home near Ocean Beach in Outer Richmond.

Gosney died at home on April 28, three months after being diagnosed with bile duct cancer, said his daughter Kate Gosney-Hoffman. He was 67 years old and decided to stop all medical treatment, including painkillers and sedatives. He spent the last moment with his daughter holding his hand and his one-year-old granddaughter Clara holding his gaze.

“She smiled and gently carried him,” Gosney-Hoffman said. “He organized his death just like everyone else. He was a master at that. “

As an orchestrator, Gosney was late for the Tribal Assembly, which ignited the Summer of Love. But its timing was perfect for the next generation of counterculture seekers who came to San Francisco in the 1990s. As a matchmaker, he introduced the city’s technology pioneers such as Ken Kesey, Ram Dass, Timothy Leary, Wavy Gravy, Todd Rundgren and both Browns – Jerry and Willie.

“Michael was the most connected person I have ever met, and he had the superhuman ability to bring people together in a way that inspired deep friendships and vital creative endeavors,” said Steve Wagner, former KGO TV presenter and director. of the San Francisco Art Exchange, a seller of original rock photos and album covers.

“It really connected the spirit of the counterculture of the 1960s with the cyberculture of the 1990s, the first carriers of the Internet,” said Don Latin, author of “Changing Our Minds: Psychedelic Sacraments and the New Psychotherapy.” “He missed the glory days himself, so he really kept the ghost alive.”

Gosney launched Verbum, a computer art magazine, in 1986. He is considered one of the first magazines to be printed exclusively using DTP tools. The software essentially replaced the art director and the printer that physically laid out the site. In 1991, he composed a print edition and downloaded his magazine online as Verbum Interactive, one of the first platforms for digital art, most of which Gosney created himself.

“Michael did the first of many things that were key,” said software designer Alden Bevington at the San Francisco Bay Area Deep Green Conference in 2011 and 2012. It featured panels on cannabis ecology and legislation and exhibitions on green cultivation techniques. . “He came from the philosophical class of the early Internet, which is actually an endangered breed.”

Michael William Gosney was born on July 11, 1954 in Pittsburgh. His father William was the sales manager of a plastic company. His mother Lou worked in real estate and raised three children, Michael was the oldest. At Shawnee Mission South High School, he played firmly on the football team and centered on the basketball team while writing poetry. After graduating in 1972, he went to Arizona State University and then moved to the University of Kansas.

But the school bored him and he never finished it. He went to San Diego in the mid-1970s to meet some friends and worked as a courier at the Town and Country Resort when he met Jeanette Menter, a receptionist. They married in 1978 and had two daughters, Kate and Rachel. They divorced in 1990 and Gosney never remarried.

Gosney was primarily a writer, and his first startup was a San Diego-based literary agency called Word Shop. From there, he opened his own publishing house, Avant Books. His titles ranged from the biography of John Muir to the first English translation of the Greek play “Buddha”.

He came up with the idea for the Digital Be-In while he was still living in San Diego in 1988.

“Michael acknowledged that San Francisco was the foundation of the digital revolution,” Wagner said, “and he needed to be where the action took place.”

He introduced himself at his first Be-In, a private party hosted by Verbum Interactive. It was linked to the Macworld Expo, a trade show at the Moscone Center for Apple computer enthusiasts.

“Mac was born out of that 60’s scene,” Gosney said at the time. “It’s all about spiritual strength, personal strength and evolution. Now, in the entire computer business, you’ll find people who were active in San Francisco in the 1960s. ”

For five years, Digital Be-In was big enough to invite the general public as a ticket to an event that combined music and dance with demonstrations of new technologies and a very primitive attempt at live broadcasting.

„60. It went back to the 1990s and returned in the 1990s, “wrote San Francisco Examiner Scott Rosenberg, who focused on the annual events of 1992.” At one end of the club, Oracle fax editions and T-shirts 37 languages ​​(100% cotton, pre-shrunk). On the second was the inscription: “Welcome to the digital realm” and a narrow corridor led to the cyber casino.

Gosney co-produced versions of Digital Be-In in Tokyo and London. His last San Francisco Digital Be-In was on January 12, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Human Be-In.

“Then he deliberately left the concept,” Wagner said. “He was on other things.”

A month ago, Wagner spent two weeks with Gosney to help him organize his archive of artwork, essays, and a huge number of digital files. Gosney’s goal was to donate the archive to either UC Berkeley or Stanford University. But his illness caught up with him before he could introduce himself. His colleagues and students plan to complete the project, no matter how long it takes, and place Gosley’s material and digital works in an academic institution.

“The archive is designed to mark the transition from the pre-digital age to the digital age,” Wagner said. “Michael recognized that digital technology is self-organizing in the same way as nature and biology, and so he was able to make meaningful change in both areas.”

A public celebration of life will be held on Friday, May 27 at Broadway Studios, 435 Broadway, St., San Francisco. The door opens at 3 p.m. with worship at 5 p.m. A $ 20 contribution is required.

Among the survivors are his daughters Kate Gosney-Hoffman of Long Beach and Rachel Gosman of Las Vegas; mother Lou Gosney and brother Jeff Gosney, both from Greensboro, NC; Sister Kimberley Bruton of Wilmington, NC; and three grandchildren.

Sam Whiting is the author of the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: swhiting@sfchronicle.com



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