“Only connect!” — E. M. Forster
In Forster’s classic novel Howard’s End, his characters struggle to make authentic connections in an increasingly complex, rapidly changing and industrializing world. More than a century since that novel’s publication, we have more ways to connect than ever in human history, and yet so little has changed.
I’m Michael Borum, and I founded etherweave in 2002 after working for years in the digital marketing and advertising business and finding myself deeply unfulfilled.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, I had engineered and led on the creative and technical development of countless websites for a wide-ranging client list at Boston-based agencies. We’d won some awards and pioneered some things that are commonplace today, but I struggled with agency life and consumer culture — particularly the central role played by advertising and marketing in driving that culture.
What’s the point of being really good at convincing people to spend their money on things they don’t need, or that won’t actually enrich their lives in some meaningful way — or make the world a slightly better place?
I was tired of feeling like a fraud, or at the very least some part of a larger problem. (The politics of the early 2000s didn’t help.)
At the same time, my partner — a fiction writer — was about to publish his first novel. Through him, I had met dozens of authors in or traveling through Boston, New York, and Washington, none of whom had much of a clue what a website was, or how to use the internet to promote their work. For some, it felt a little tacky or unbecoming to do so. Others had rudimentary websites that were falling into disrepair from neglect. (They were writers, after all, not pixel jockeys.)
By then the publishing business was changing rapidly and struggling to keep up with our world’s ongoing digital transformation. Writers and thinkers of all kinds were similarly challenged. I saw a worthwhile opportunity: if I was unhappy devising ways to separate people from their money for worthless things, how about putting that energy towards selling them culture? Shouldn’t literature, music, film, and the arts in general mean at least as much as the latest gadget, must-have sneaker, or sports car?
Using the internet to create more intimate connections between writers, thought leaders, and readers felt like a worthwhile use of the medium. At the very least, these folks needed help using the medium to their advantage.
And so etherweave was born. My first clients were, naturally, those closest to me — authors Christopher Castellani (my spouse), Michael Lowenthal, Scott Heim, Steve Almond, Jenna Blum, Elinor Lipman, and Stephen McCauley were among the first to take me up on my offer. Boston-based literary arts nonprofit GrubStreet and Cambridge-based chamber chorus Musica Sacra were my first institutional clients. (I had already been working with UK music group Cocteau Twins — a dream — for years by then.) From there, things really took off.
I am quite proud of, and deeply grateful for, the diverse and international roster of acclaimed authors across many genres, publishing houses, journalists, nonprofit organizations, academics, musicians, artists, colleges, and universities who have trusted me — and continue to trust me — with creating and curating their online presence over these last 20 years, allowing me to keep this a sustainable, if small, enterprise.
If you would like to join our little family, feel free to reach out. I’d love to hear your story.