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Playing the Future: What We Can Learn from Digital Kids Paperback – September 1, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Trade; Reprint edition (September 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573227641
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573227643
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,156,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Three years after the original publication of Playing the Future: What We Can Learn from Digital Kids in 1996, this breathlessly polemical defense of the techno-savvy youth culture of the '90s already reads like a document from another era. Back then, the Internet was still a strange new force, instinctively embraced by kids who'd grown up playing video games, instinctively distrusted by the grownups who ran the mainstream media. Standing up for the emergent digital culture--loosely associated with suspicious activities like raves, role-playing games, and piercing--took nerve and optimism.

And Douglas Rushkoff here supplies both in abundance. His argument: contemporary "screenagers," as he calls them, aren't being warped by new technologies, they're adapting to them. Their relationship to play, work, spirituality, and politics all reflect the contours of a new world shaped by the liberating logic of digital networks and chaos theory. It's a better world, Rushkoff assures us, and if the grownups know what's good for them, they will stop looking askance at the ways of digital youth and start trying to learn from them instead.

Ultimately, Rushkoff seems a lot more interested in making his argument than in making it stick. He flies from one loose logical connection to another--the secret link between fractal math and snowboarding, the parallel between Web browser interfaces and Federal Reserve notes--and he alternates between near-brilliance and utter implausibility as he goes.

But even nowadays, when the heated rhetoric that met the first wave of digital culture is generally giving way to more nuanced analysis, there's something contagious about Rushkoff's passionate faith that the kids are all right. He may not convince you, but after this intellectual joy ride is over, that may not matter. Like any good child of the '90s, you'll want to believe. --Julian Dibbell

Review

"Makes dazzling links between chaos theory and Rodney King, snowboarding and William Gibson, race culture and Star Wars ... the literary equivalent of U2's Zoo TV ... Rushkoff is courageous enough to stand up against fashionable gloom by putting his faith in today's 'screenagers.'"

-- Vox


More About the Author

Winner of the first Neil Postman award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity, Douglas Rushkoff is an author, teacher, and documentarian who focuses on the ways people, cultures, and institutions create, share, and influence each other's values. He sees "media" as the landscape where this interaction takes place, and "literacy" as the ability to participate consciously in it.

His ten best-selling books on new media and popular culture have been translated to over thirty languages. They include Cyberia, Media Virus, Playing the Future, Nothing Sacred: The Truth about Judaism, and Coercion, winner of the Marshall Mcluhan Award for best media book. Rushkoff also wrote the acclaimed novels Ecstasy Club and Exit Strategy and graphic novel, Club Zero-G. He has just finished a book for HarperBusiness, applying renaissance principles to today's complex economic landscape, Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out. He's now writing a monthly comic book for Vertigo called Testament.

He has written and hosted two award-winning Frontline documentaries - The Merchants of Cool looked at the influence of corporations on youth culture, and The Persuaders, about the cluttered landscape of marketing, and new efforts to overcome consumer resistance.

Rushkoff's commentaries air on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR's All Things Considered, and have appeared in publications from The New York Times to Time magazine. He wrote the first syndicated column on cyberculture for The New York Times and Guardian of London, as well as a column on wireless for The Feature and a new column for the music and culture magazine, Arthur.

Rushkoff founded the Narrative Lab at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program, and lectures about media, art, society, and change at conferences and universities around the world.

He is Advisor to the United Nations Commission on World Culture, on the Board of Directors of the Media Ecology Association, The Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics, and as a founding member of Technorealism. He has been awarded Senior Fellowships by the Markle Foundation and the Center for Global Communications Fellow of the International University of Japan.

He regularly appears on TV shows from NBC Nightly News to Larry King and Bill Maher. He is writing a new monthly comic book for Vertigo, and developed the Electronic Oracle software series for HarperCollins Interactive.

Rushkoff is on the board of several new media non-profits and companies, and regularly consults on new media arts and ethics to museums, governments, synagogues, churches, and universities, as well as Sony, TCI, advertising agencies, and other Fortune 500 companies.

Rushkoff graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, received an MFA in Directing from California Institute of the Arts, a post-graduate fellowship (MFA) from The American Film Institute, and a Director's Grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He has worked as a certified stage fight choreographer, and as keyboardist for the industrial band PsychicTV.

He lives in Park Slope Brooklyn with his wife, Barbara, and daughter Mamie.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "-jals-" on April 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
I found this book while browsing in the anthropological section of a bookstore (where it belongs). This is a tremendously hopeful book, even if it is occasionally circular. Everything from vampire games to grafitti is explained as a recapitulation of society's previous values, just accelerated and adapted by the newest version of human--teenagers. Rushkoff deftly analyzes the existance in which young adults are operating and creating as part of a bigger, brighter reality. These anaylses are always interesting, but they occasionally seem over-thought and repetetive. This book is coherent and well-presented--the author certainly knows what he's talking about, even if the reader doesn't always agree. A wonderful, insightful book that gives credit where credit is due--to the millions of young adults who manage to operate efficiently in an increasingly complex and chaotic world, even if their parents don't get it.
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Format: Paperback
The cultural examples in this book are dated (fractals and Pogs?) but the general idea is still relevant: embracing the coming age of chaotic culture is a healthy alternative to Doomsday predictions about short attention spans and loose morals. It's Marshall McLuhan's Global Village, with "but in a good way" tacked on. If you already like the internet, you can probably skip ahead in the Rushkoff bibliography.

For kicks, two funny problems with this book:

(1) Rushkoff is addicted to tortured metaphors and endless similes. This is painful to read, but also kind of hilarious during the entire chapter about the death of metaphor. The death of metaphor is a parabola? No, it's a rushing faucet. Wait, it's a type of childbirth. The death of metaphor is a metaphor!

(2) Rushkoff likes chaotic culture because it's evolutionary, but he can't quite wrap his head around evolution itself as a chaotic process (at least he didn't in 1996). He repeatedly insists that evolution tends to climb a ladder towards complexity and that humans are the most "highly evolved" species: basically The Crown of Creation shoehorned into biological terms. Using a Judeo-Christian concept of species hierarchy to explain the decline of God and authority? Weird!
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Format: Paperback
Took me a while to get through this one. Rushkoffs' Playing the Future: how kids' culture can teach us to thrive in an age of chaos is a very impressive read. Douglas R. illustrates a cultural transition that moves from linearity to chaos, from duality to holism, from mechanism to animism, from gravity to consensual, from metaphor to recapitulation, and from God to nature, all through the lenses of role-playing games, comic books, 3-d animation, and computer games. By far, the central theme of P the F is cultural movement we experience towards an organized chaos (fractel being the metaphorical shape Rushkoff uses) and ultimetly higher levels of organizations.

Rushkoff is a very talented writer being able to string together long and complex sentances that connect many different ideas in a relatively short space. This work is of impressive scope and it definetly dives deep into the nuances and intricacies of kids' culture and thier interpretation of the world. An excellent read
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