Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age

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9781935928157: Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age

Today's leading media theorist offers everyone a practical yet mind-blowing guide to our digital world. The debate over whether the Net is good or bad for us fills the airwaves and the blogosphere. But for all the heat of claim and counter-claim, the argument is essentially beside the point: it's here; it's everywhere. The real question is, do we direct technology, or do we let ourselves be directed by it and those who have mastered it? Choose the former writes Rushkoff, and you gain access to the control panel of civilization. Choose the latter, and it could be the last real choice you get to make. In ten chapters, composed of ten commands, accompanied by original illustrations from comic artist Leland Purvis, Rushkoff provides cyberenthusiasts and technophobes alike with the guidelines to navigate this new universe. In this spirited, accessible poetics of new media, Rushkoff picks up where Marshall McLuhan left off, helping readers come to recognize programming as the new literacy of the digital age--and as a template through which to see beyond social conventions and power structures that have vexed us for centuries. This is a friendly little book with a big and actionable message. 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, 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, and correspondent for Frontline Digital Nation. Here's the first field manual on how to remain human on the internet.-- Kevin Kelly, What Technology Wants 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

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About the Author:

Winner of the first Neil Postman award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity, Douglas Rushkoff has written a dozen best-selling books on media and society, including Cyberia, Media Virus, Coercion (winner of the Marshall McLuhan Award), Get Back in the Box, and Life Inc. He has made the PBS Frontline documentaries Digital Nation, The Persuaders, and Merchants of Cool. A columnist for The Daily Beast and Arthur Magazine, his articles have been regularly published in The New York Times and Discover, among many other publications. His radio commentaries air on NPR and WFMU, his opeds appear in the New York Times, and he is a familiar face on television, from ABC News to The Colbert Report. Rushkoff has taught at New York University and the New School, played keyboards for the industrial band PsychicTV, directed for theater and film, and worked as a stage fight choreographer. He lives in New York State with his wife, Barbara, and daughter Mamie.

Review:

As we shuffle in this morning, we're all gathering on a plane of electrons, held together by... well, for most of us it might as well be library paste and fairy dust. But hey, who needs to understand how all this technical stuff works? After all, you don't need to know how a television works to catch Law & Order: Yet Another. You don't need to know how a combustion engine works to drive your car to work. Why should you need to know anything about the programming behind the pixels just to get around the web? Because, as Douglas Rushkoff reminds us in this slim volume, the web is different. It's both medium and content. It delivers us to work, delivers our entertainment, hosts our conversation, and more often than not, shapes our opinions. It's medium and message, highway, vehicle, post office, confidant, and huckster. We don't just put our ideas into the web, we also draw ideas out. And the difference in being able to place messages in the medium, and realizing how the medium shapes the message, is the difference between tossing a pebble into water and digging a canal. This is not a coffee maker you're using, and the web is not the Sunday paper. What you do in here can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. We like to think that we're old hands at the information age, but what Douglas Rushkoff shows is that those who march into the web thinking that knowledge of the outside world will be enough to use this new conduit, have been sadly mistaken over and over. Retail powerhouses in the brick & mortar world find that not only are they unable to easily leverage the web to their advantage, simply putting their prices online makes it easier for companies that only exist in this new universe to quick trump their prices and take their customers. Newspapers find that their ability to aggregate information can't keep up with tools available to their (former) readers. Politicians find that rather than giving them a simple super-phone-bank-money-extractor, operating in the web can also mean being mired in a bog of electronic overload and inaction. 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

Douglas Rushkoff is an oracle of the digital age, an author addressing issues few have yet identified. Rushkoff s latest work, Program or be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age, sets aside tired debates about the societal value of the Internet and instead posits that the crucial question at hand is whether we direct technology, or let ourselves be directed by it and those who have mastered it. Choose the former, writes Rushkoff, and you gain access to the control panel of civilization. Choose the latter, and it could be the last real choice you get to make. 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

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