Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age

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Overview


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 cyber enthusiasts 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

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 today—and 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 thinkers––and writers––of 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

The Barnes & Noble Review

As one of the first writers to understand the paradigm-demolishing impact of the Internet (Cyberia), Douglas Rushkoff has long been lumped in with the web world's cheerleaders. As this slim, cool-headed broadside makes clear, however, if Rushkoff was ever unambiguously thrilled about the online age, that time is past. Confronted with the tsunami of content that he believes threatens our sense of reality, Rushkoff puts forth ten recommendations, or "commands" that he believes will help people thoughtfully navigate the new world.

Although Rushkoff's dicta can read like a wired Emily Post ("Do Not Sell Your Friends," "Share, Don't Steal"), his aim is less to promote web civility than to encourage readers to take back the Internet before it is fatally compromised by a desensitized, crowd-sourced, omnipresent cloud of Twittering, snarking, short-attention-span infotainments. Befitting its message of level-headed rationality, Rushkoff's prose is cleanly bonded to his ten precepts, avoiding the heavy-breathing fulminations often preferred in the digital debate. While acknowledging that the Internet is changing the species in ways unprecedented since the birth of the printing press, Rushkoff throws cold water on the gauzy libertarian fantasies promulgated by champions of social media. He slyly notes that while creative people are expected to upload all of their work for free, the reality of web advertising means that somebody is getting paid when this media is consumed, just not the creators. "Instead of optimizing our machines for humanity," he warns, "we are optimizing humans for machinery."

While Rushkoff's answer -- learn how to actually use and program the machines that we spend so much of our lives on -- is not likely to be taken up by many, his warning about the consequences of passivity is hard to shake.

--Chris Barsanti

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781935928157
  • Publisher: OR Books, LLC
  • Publication date: 11/1/2010

Meet 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.
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