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Sean Bonner

Entrepreneur brings a punk-inspired DIY spirit to the Internet age

by Largetail in Culture on 28 November 2011

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Creator, activist and entrepreneur Sean Bonner assumes the cyberpunk intrigue of a character cast in a William Gibson novel one might say. As both a co-founder of L.A.'s hacker haven, Crashspace and regular contributor for BoingBoing, Bonner is a subculture clairvoyant on the cusp of technology and social trends. Growing up to the anarchistic anthems of the punk rock scene, Bonner naturally gravitated to the "make or break" ethos of technology. Bonner explains, "The punk rock world has a very strong DIY ethic and from a very early age, my instinct was that when something needed to get done the best possible option was to do it yourself."

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Actively adopting a grassroots spirit, Bonner opened the acclaimed art gallery sixspace with Caryn Coleman, featuring such street art luminaries as Shepard Fairey and Space Invader. In 2002, the gallery relocated from Chicago to Los Angeles, later launching the photography group show, Sent: America's First Phonecam Art Show. The show's debut prophesized the pervasive popularity of the device, which the LA Times likened to "a socio-anthropological study as much as an artistic display of technological capability."

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Bonner began to further pioneer the techno-sphere with his finger on the digital pulse. In 2003, he and business partner Jason DeFillippo started Bode Media to publish a community of blogs under the unification of Metblogs. In a time when the Internet was forging the emergence of the great "Global Village," Bode Media looked locally, creating a pilot Metblog that exclusively reported on his home base of Los Angeles. Bonner explains, "In 2003, the idea of a group blog almost didn't exist and there was next to no local media online at all. We wanted to inspire more of both of those things and help people connect with their cities and other locals via the web." With a city-centric focus, the international success of Metblogs expanded to cover local culture in over 50 cities around the world.

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Conjuring technological savvy and astute activism, Bonner heads up the "Black Ops" of Neoteny Labs, a "consumer internet startup fund" with a focus on South East Asia. Giving a leg up to bootstrap start-ups, Neoteny Labs pairs software companies with angel investors. In 2009, Neoteny Labs held the Singapore Camp conference covering "investing and incubating" topics. Bonner elaborates, "We wanted to inspire people to venture down a route that wasn't decidedly 'safe' rather than just do what was expected. I tried to bring in speakers who I felt embodied this attitude of doing something they loved rather than something they thought might be profitable."

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Continuing his altruistic efforts in Asia, Bonner continued his altruistic efforts in Asia with Safecast, "a global sensor network monitoring the radiation levels" of Japan in wake of the nuclear disaster caused by the March 2011 earthquake. "After the earthquake we quickly realized how little information was available and set out to change that by collecting and distributing the data ourselves. We've provided countless people with detailed and accurate information about the radiation levels in their areas. To date we've collected more than 1,000,000 individual radiation readings and published them free and open for anyone to use," says Bonner.

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A dedicated evangelist of awareness, Bonner also has a hand in Coffee Common, "an education brand" launched at TED in 2011. Bonner recently spoke at the TEDx conference in Vienna, returning to his DIY ethic with his talk espousing how less is truly more. Inspired by the liberation of downsizing his belongings and traveling around the world with his family, Bonner forecasted "Neominimalism" and discussed the rising subculture of "Technomads." Bonner posts on his blog, "Technology enables this lifestyle shift, and is changing the way we interact with our surroundings."

This story is part of an editorial series sponsored and inspired by Le Meridien.
New Perspectives explores fresh ideas and distinct points of view in global art and culture.

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