EVENT: Douglas Rushkoff Book Party

October 15, 2010
6:00 pmto8:00 pm


Adjunct Professor Douglas Rushkoff will discuss is new book, Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age, at a launch celebration at ITP.

When human beings acquired language, we learned not just how to listen but how to speak. When we gained literacy, we learned not just how to read but how to write. And as we move into an increasingly digital reality, we must learn not just how to use programs but how to make them.

Digital tools are not like rakes, steam engines, or even automobiles that we can drive with little understanding of how they work. Digital technology doesn’t merely convey our bodies, but ourselves. Our screens are the windows through which we are experiencing, organizing, and interpreting the world in which we live. We are doing more than extending human agency through a new linguistic or communications system. We are replicating the very function of cognition through external, extra-human mechanisms. These tools are not mere extensions of the will of some individual or group, but entities that have the ability to think and operate other components in the neural network—namely, us.

And while machines once replaced and usurped the value of human labor, computers and networks do more than usurp the value of human thought. They not only copy our intellectual processes—our repeatable programs—but they often discourage our more complex processes—our higher order cognition, contemplation, innovation, and meaning making that should be the reward of “outsourcing” our arithmetic to silicon chips in the first place.

The more humans become involved in their design, the more humanely inspired these tools will end up behaving. At the very least we must come to recognize the biases – the tendencies- of the technologies we are using. In a digital age, failure to do so could mean relinquishing our nascent collective agency to the machines themselves.

Rushkoff is the media theorist who first coined terms such as “viral media,” “social currency,” and “screenagers.” He is the author of a dozen books on media, culture, and technology, the correspondent for several Frontline documentaries, and has taught at ITP since the mid-90’s.

Winner of the first Neil Postman award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity, American media theorist 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.

Rushkoff’s new book, Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age is now available exclusively from OR Books (www.orbooks.com).

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010
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