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Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age Paperback – September 6, 2011
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Praise for Program or Be Programmed
"Now that much of what Rushkoff has predicted over the years has come to pass, he is uniquely qualified to write what may be one of the most important and instructive books of our times: Program or be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age. In it, he outlines ten different ideas that information technology is biased towards; biases that can cause discord in our lives. However, rather than predicting that the sky is falling, Rushkoff gives practical and actionable advice on how to turn those biases into advantages." Wired
"Lucid and consequential . . . a subtle and substantiated call for (missing) humanity in networked daily life." Neural.it
Thinking twice about our use of digital media, what our practices are doing to us, and what we are doing to each other, is one of the most important priorities people have todayand Douglas Rushkoff gives us great guidelines for doing that thinking. Read this before and after you Tweet, Facebook, email or YouTube.” Howard Rheingold
Douglas Rushkoff is one of the great thinkersand writersof our time.” Timothy Leary
Rushkoff is damn smart. As someone who understood the digital revolution faster and better than almost anyone, he shows how the internet is a social transformer that should change the way your business culture operates.” Walter Isaacson
What’s the difference between being able to operate in the web, and being able to thrive there? The difference is in being able to understand the how and why of this new world. In ten chapters or commands, Douglas Rushkoff lays out how to live in this new world. Some of this advice will seem straightforward, some of it will need explanation, and some of it will seem more than a little counterintuitive. But all of it is delivered with verve and insight that makes you rethink your interactions on the web. Are you driving your life here, or only a passenger? If you want to get your hands on the wheel, this book is a good place to start.” Daily Kos
Rushkoff presents ten succinct commands for choosing our own destiny in the online era, ranging from Do Not Be Always On to Do Not Sell Your Friends. In the process, he presents a way we can actively leverage these technologies to build a more shareable world similar to the one we envision in our report The New Sharing Economy, as opposed to allowing our tools and those who create them to define the social constructs of the current era.” Shareable.net
About the Author
World-renowned media theorist and counterculture figure Douglas Rushkoff is the originator of ideas such as “viral media,” “social currency” and “screenagers.” He has been at the forefront of digital society from its beginning, correctly predicting the rise of the net, the dotcom boom and bust, as well as today's financial crisis. He is a familiar voice on NPR, face on PBS, and writer in publications from Discover Magazine to the New York Times. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Some of Rushkoff's observations seem spot-on, while others are a bit more questionable. For example, he laments the lack of availability of computer programming classes at the high school level fearing that students are learning only how to operate the software without ever understanding the methods of its creation. That strikes me as an odd concern. One could just as easily argue that programmers are at a fundamental disadvantage lacking an understanding of the electrical engineering which makes modern microprocessors possible. That logic could be extended backward ad infinitum. (Do I need to understand Boolean logic in order to, say, build a website?)
His more astute observations deal with things like the often cited shortening of attention spans, the valuation of the recent over the relevant, the stress caused by the constant onslaught of new data (about which he says "for the first time, regular people are beginning to shows signs of stress and mental fatigue once exclusive to air traffic controllers and 911 operators"), and the separation of people from their physical surroundings ("our digital behaviors closely mirror those of Asperger's sufferers; low pick up on social cues and facial expressions, apparent lack of empathy, and the inability to make facial contact").
One of the more disturbing behaviors that omnipresent internet-enabled digital devices spawn is the attitude that a person's online representation of themselves (a sort of simulation of one's self) is more important than actually experiencing that life. This is a phenomenon in which it's more important to one's self valuation to be seen as being at all the right events, socializing with all of the right people having a better time than one's audience than it is to actually enjoy the event being experienced. We're all celebrities now (at least within our circle of digital followers).
He chronicles another familiar modern phenomenon: the mashup. Creative works that once stood as isolated and indivisible are now subject to infinite duplication, disassembly, rearrangement and publication as "new" works. Are they really new? If I rearrange the songs on your album and lay some new beats over top of it, am I an artist? Good question. It's something that the world's filmmakers will have to struggle with as their audience slices up their movie oeuvre and inserts characters from the film into a movie of their own making.
All is not lost, however. He highlights a positive trend in online communication: surfacing the truth. When statements are posted and circulated online which are inaccurate or flat out false, someone somewhere is going to see it and call out that falsehood. He says that "the way to flourish in a mediaspace biased toward nonfiction is to tell the truth." He quickly adds a caveat to that saying that "this means having a truth to tell."
I am certainly guilty of a number of behaviours Rushkoff describes, and while I can't rid myself of them completely, I am definitely more aware of them and try to keep them at a minimum and try to remove some of my technology tethers when I go on an extended vacation. While you may disagree with some of the points and concur with others, this book is a very quick exploration into the 'connected' psyche of our society.