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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.

Program or be Programmed: ten commands for a digital age by Douglas Rushkoff is available only at the Or Books.

This morning, Douglas Rushkoff joins us for live Q&A right now. So rub that sleep from your eyes and get your questions into the comments.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Oct 03, 2010 at 06:11 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  WWW (3+ / 0-)

    A flea market with as many sellers as buyers. Good luck.

  •  link to here (3+ / 0-)

    Hi Everyone.
    First - Mark. There's an underlined link saying RIGHT NOW in the initial post pointing to this discussion. But it doesn't point anywhere - it's just underlined.

    Should that be a link to here?

  •  A question on Identity (11+ / 0-)


    Welcome to DK this morning. This is the first time we've done a discussion this early on a Sunday, we'll see if anyone is awake enough to join in.

    One thing you talk about in the book is "Identity." Many of the people on Daily Kos originally signed up using a screen name. Some of us (myself included) never made a lot of effort to keep our real identity secret and eventually dropped the screen names for our real names. Do you see that trend elsewhere?

    •  identity (7+ / 0-)

      Yeah - I think people are finding out that the more we know about each other the better our discussions are. Unless one requires anonymity for fear of reprisal, there's not much need to hide who we are.

      All it usually leads to is insensitivity, flaming or, worse, Anonymous mob behavior against the wrong people.

      Plus, once you establish an identity, the people in your community can glean a lot more from what you say than if they are starting again each time. If you're always fairly moderate, and then agree with some extreme position, people will take more note.

    •  Individual privacy? (5+ / 0-)

      Any thoughts on using the Web and still keeping strangers out of our personal business? (I am avoiding social media such as Facebook because I understand that anything that goes up there never goes away.)

      I could have been a soldier... I had got part of it learned; I knew more about retreating than the man that invented retreating. --Mark Twain

      by NogodsnomastersMary on Sun Oct 03, 2010 at 06:23:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  it's hard (10+ / 0-)

        I am caught in this conundrum myself, moreso because I have a kid now. I didn't really care what 'they' knew about me before.

        Even without the strangers knowing what we do, the machines know what we do. So we end up in an increasingly tight "filter bubble" - to use Parisee's term - where we only see what we've seen before.

        Sometimes it's marketers feeding us what they know we saw before, but it's also our politics and information sources, becoming more attuned to our preferences. Makes it really hard to see outside.

        •  To me, this is the Achilles Heel (6+ / 0-)

          of digital interactive media. I think one of the most important features of the original lending libraries was the idea that you could read and consume any information without regard that someone would know what you were reading.

          That is gone, and so, everything we read is now potentially public information. If I read Karl Marx, 10 years ago, and I try to make a point, I am open to attack as a Marxist by the head of the database. Or, if I have read a book on Psychological disturbances online, I myself may be too interested in that topic, wink wink, if you know what I mean... you see, we now edit what we consume based on our personal credibility in the future. Christians brag that they ONLY read pre-approved Christian sources.  

          Eventually, soon, everyone will be screaming at each other based on what they have "seen" or "heard" This limits the information being sought in the first place.

          We need some mechanism by which all this data is expunged, like Jefferson's idea that every 19 years, all inherited wealth go to charity to level out the economic system. Will we? probably not. We will be increasingly trpped in stored data or the THREAT of stored data, and open to blackmail by FAKE stored data.. ugh. The digital future to me looks like an Orwellian nightmare.

          Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

          by OregonOak on Sun Oct 03, 2010 at 07:22:58 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I will contine to be socalmonk...I am a liberal (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Moody Loner, Ice Blue, Larsstephens

      social/community/political activist in a far-right leaning part of southern California, and have been cyber-stalked before. I once posted regularly at a political website that was infiltrated by trolls. The site's server started going down pretty often, and I started getting threatening emails from some of the trolls at a non-public email address. The one I used when I registered my account there. Some of them were ex-military, like myself, but had apparently segued into private security and/or government work, and took exception to my opposition to war generally, and war in Iraq and Afghanistan particularly. They even knew my street address, as I had purchased some merchandise from the site and had it shipped to me. The site owner had political aspirations that eventually took precedence over the forum and it folded. Some of its members came here.

  •  social currency (5+ / 0-)

    And in business/jobs/etc., most people are coming to realize that their social currency is everything. It's a little dark, I suppose, but people are seeing themselves as brands that need to be built up over time.

    So they try to take credit for what they post, and dont' want to waste time writing and posting if it doesn't help them in some way.

  •  On Identity (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Moody Loner, Larsstephens

    I'm active in several worlds (music, professional as well as the BDSM community) and maintain completely separate identities in each. My persona in the BDSM world, one which I use when I write, in person and when I appear in videos is the one I'm most protective of. I can't allow any cross-pollination between that world and the others for fear that it will taint the other personae or even contribute to the ending of a career. The need to exhibit the actual SS# holding individual is not there with me and I'm quite comfortable being whoever I need to be whenever I need to be that person. The Internet offers me that flexibility.

    The question is: Is there any drive among netizens to create some form of pecking order between those who are out there in a full-frontal way and those who, by necessity, must hide behind a persona or eight?

    •  Clarification (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      By "pecking order" I mean seeing those who present themselves as themselves as "more serious" than people with a screen name.

      •  pecking (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens, annieli

        For the most part, people with screen names are more serious.

        As someone who gets chewed up regularly online, I have learned to pretty much ignore anonymous posts. Unless i"m in a conversation with students in Iran, I just don't want to deal with anonymous people.

        They have the advantage in an online space, while I have a face and a family. Not fair.

    •  not sure (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Moody Loner, Ice Blue, Larsstephens

      if there's such a drive.

      Certainly, those who are out there anonymously end up getting less traction. Unless they have created a fictional identity, which is almost the same as a real one, anyway.

      I think we all tend to trust online personas that are connected to some person somewhere. And obviously, the more integrated one's online personas, the more they can support one another. If you're the same person in church as professionally, then your parish members can become your customers, and so on.

      So it's hard to have an identity that's not accepted by the public. Like being gay. And I get why people hide those parts of themselves from the cultures that wouldn't be accepting. But it sucks, and this separation wont' work as well in a social-network-driven landscape. At least not for the business part.

  •  Why did you write the book and what is your (0+ / 0-)

    Thesis? At times the webs seems like A Brave new world of information overload... Great at somethings and bad at others.... The wild west but also rather the same in many places....

  •  Hi there! (8+ / 0-)

    What troubles me is the potential for the online world to actually narrow what I know (eg Google search algorithms tailoring search results for me; not being able to "flip through the pages" of an online resource as I can do with a book; the sheer overload of available information).  How can I really take advantage of the "Wide" part of the WWW, without going crazy?



    •  good one (8+ / 0-)

      It does narrow, simplify, and worse.
      IT's great, of course, for 'casting out' and finding an answer - for breaking down barriers to knowledge and data. But by its nature it tends toward the narrowing you're talking about.

      Our technologies are learning a lot more about us than we are learning about them. And they learn about us in order to give us choices they think we want. They narrow based on our past behaviors in order to please us (or control us, depending on who is doing the programming).

      I think the way to take advantage of the WIDE part is to realize that the web is create for lateral thinking, for making connections, and for casting out simple answers. And then use other kinds of sources (like books, even) for more deliberate and linear inquiries. And for contemplation.

  •  How is this specific to digital life? (5+ / 0-)

    Thanks Doug and Mark. And its a fairly civilized 9:30 here on the east coast.

    A quick reading of the table of contents --

    I. TIME
    Do Not Be "Always On"
    Live in Person
    You May Always Choose “None of the Above”
    You Are Never Completely Right
    V. SCALE
    One Size Does Not Fit All
    Be Yourself
    Do Not Sell Your Friends
    Tell the Truth
    Share, Don’t Steal
    Program or Be Programmed

    -- leads me to wonder how specific most of these issues are to digital or on-line life? I don't know about you but I'm never completely right off-line either (not even close, truth be told). Can you address how matters digital inflect these concerns in new ways?


    Obama is a tool; and I mean that in the nicest way.

    by hoipolloi on Sun Oct 03, 2010 at 06:30:53 AM PDT

    •  well yeah (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Terri, Moody Loner, Ice Blue, Larsstephens

      That's the whole point. You either recognize the systems we live with as social constructions, or you don't.

      For me, the digital revolution (so to speak) was a great opportunity for people to see the way not only their computers were programmed, but their cities, governments, economies, and so on.  Learning computer programming opened up the rest of the world.

      But if we don't come to see the programs in our computers, I think we'll become even more blind to the intentions of the many other kinds of social programs under which we live. We'll forget about evolution altogether, and see reality as a set of existing circumstances.

  •  Could you comment a bit on the difference (4+ / 0-)

    between digital and analog presence and expand a bit more on:

    I think we all tend to trust online personas that are connected to some person somewhere. And obviously, the more integrated one's online personas, the more they can support one another. If you're the same person in church as professionally, then your parish members can become your customers, and so on.

    Also, I would say that your comment on "real social networks" is revelatory since it might run counter to integration especially in terms of risk/trust:

    My real social networks happen more in email.

    "calling for a 5" deck gun is not parody. Not by a long shot." (gnaborretni),-snark alert on-,"Don't vote 4 Teabagger God"

    by annieli on Sun Oct 03, 2010 at 06:39:54 AM PDT

    •  analog/digital (8+ / 0-)

      For me, the analog/digital persona has always been the same. And I suppose that's not typical. I am rushkoff everywhere I go. I did this consciously, beginning in 1988, because I decided to live in a world where I was allowed to say or be anything I wanted.

      And it wasn't governments or societies who cracked down on me as much as marketers. When you are you, they find you and send/sell you stuff. So it has meant me dropping out of more commercial spaces (like canceling all but one credit card and bank account, so that I know these emails and letters don't apply to my real accounts, and so on). In a way the marketing backfired because I don't know which "me" they are writing to - the real one or the one they want to manufacture for me.

      But at least I know which me I really am.

      The bad side is that the personal, analog Douglas still gets physically upset from things that anonymous mob people do to my online identity. So when Anon or a mobBBS decides they don't like something I've written, and they go post pictures of my family online with death threats, that really fucks up my life to some extent. It hurts people.

      So then I have to stop writing what I feel are important pieces?  Or write them anonymously?  

  •   imo, One of the greatest challenges of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Davinci, Red Bean, Larsstephens

    our age, the information age, is to discern what information to allow into our existence. What makes it so challenging is that we can only create our persona if we have already done the work of creating our value system otherwise, it will be created for us.

    Hope this makes sense on only one cup of java. Good luck with the book, fantastic idea!

  •  So are you talking of consuming the medium or (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Moody Loner, Larsstephens

    presenting the medium?

    "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."  

    Is this just the difference between content producers and those that consume it?
    Is it just understanding how it works can give you the tools to use it more effectively?

    •  yes and no (5+ / 0-)

      It's the difference between understanding or not understanding the syntax of the language that is directing our experience.  

      If we are raised in NYC, do we just think that to be in a city means to live on a grid pattern? I did, until I went to Europe and saw that there's other kinds of cities with other priorities and biases.

      In another way, your question is like - do we really need to know how to talk, or can't we just listen? I think language means knowing how to do both. So you can call it production, but I think it really amounts more to participation.

      If we dont' know the biases of, say, Facebook, then we don't see how our participation has been circumscribed by a company.

  •  Needles and straw (9+ / 0-)

    One of the big concerns I have is that we've become unable to determine the quality of the information we're receiving. It's not Keen's "cult of the amateur" that's at fault, it's the supposed professionals. Increasingly both on the web and off the web, they seem to generate much more heat than light. So much so that we're constantly bombarded with gigabytes of triviality that make it difficult to find anything important. It's almost as if the news media has decided to thwart our ability to collect information by burying it under ten miles of pap.

    My biggest worry is that I can't sort out my biggest worry. There are so many red flags being thrown, that I think real dangers -- as individuals and a society -- are being passively ignored or actively buried.

  •  The Digital World As Extension of Self (4+ / 0-)

    For me the digital world feels the same as my car when I'm behind the wheel. The car feels like an extension of my body outward as I almost "feel" the road, the turns, the acceleration when I'm driving. The Internet (whether it's the WWW or even the old-school Usenet) feels like me with a farther reach than is possible by a physical body. I don't perceive this reach as being less substantial than my "real life" reach -- just different.

    One thing I love about the digital world beyond any other aspect is the influx of information.
    By my very nature, I'm an absorber of information. I love knowing things and have since I was a kid reading the encyclopedia from A to Z. Although you can't believe but a fraction of things you read online, it's still the greatest treasure trove of information that my geeked out brain could imagine. It's Asimov's "Encyclopedia Galactica" brought to life which thrills me to no end. In the end, it's a tool for me, an artificial appendage that just extends my presence in the world.

    •  right, McLuhan did too (7+ / 0-)

      and your description of this space makes me think of what McLuhan would have said about it.

      All technologies are extensions of ourselves. Tools extend the hand, and so on.

      The difference is that the digital space - computers - don't just extend an arm or a leg but an intention. These are processes embedded into machines that continue on without us.

      So they're a bit more unwieldy, especially if most of us don't even know what the machines we are using have been told to do or how they even work.

      •  We're Evolving (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Moody Loner, nchristine, swaminathan

        Except that now we're having a direct effect on the evolution of the human race. We're adding to it, extending it, digitizing parts of it. DNA programs our bodies but now we are writing the DNA of the digital realm -- programming the nature of our digital selves. I don't know what the result will be but then again I don't know what the result of my bodies DNA will be either. Am I programmed to get Alzheimer's Disease under certain conditions when I'm 70? I have no idea but I can't sit around fearing it the same way I can't sit around fearing that what I'm writing here will have an effect on my life that I can't see right now.

        I don't believe in a Singularity the way that Ray Kurzweil envisions it but I do think that the Digital Age has ushered in a reworking of what it means to be a human being in the world even as it's both expanded and contracted that world for many people.

  •  Hey, why can't I buy this book on Amazon? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, swaminathan, annieli

    After several best selling books, why are you taking a different route this time?

  •  child (7+ / 0-)

    is screaming for me upstairs. DADDY DADDY. Likely because she has been informed my officially negotiated Sunday hour has expired.

    So I think I have to go.

    I can come back another time, though. Or you can come to for more discussion in the asynchronous way.

    Or check out the book or e-book version for even cheaper.

  •  Amazon (7+ / 0-)

    Because for the privilege of using an Amazon link instead of

    you would have to pay TWICE as much for the book.

    I feel like it's irresponsible of me to charge everyone double just so a corporation can skim its profits off the top. If this is a p2p mediaspace, then we should be allowed to use it as such.

    We'll see if I make more or less, myself, but it's time we step up and out of that model.

  •  Track Twitter-bomb astrotrufers with new tool -- (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, annieli

    A new tool that tracks and analyzes twitter-bombs could give us lefties an edge against RightWing astrotrufers.  Here's the press release on 'Truthy'.

    a group of leading Indiana University information and computer scientists today unleashed, a sophisticated new Twitter-based research tool that combines data mining, social network analysis and crowdsourcing to uncover deceptive tactics and misinformation leading up to the Nov. 2 elections.

    In the press release linked above, one of the 'Truthy' designers comments on how twitter-boms, sent by astroturfers, can distort Google search results while establishing a falsely-inflated internet presence for the astrotuf memes.

    "One of the concerns about social media is that people are being manipulated without realizing it because a meme can be given instant global popularity by a high search engine ranking, in turn perpetuating the falsehood," Menczer said.

    The article gives the example of a twitter-bomb from the 'American Future Fund' (AFF) during the MA Coakely-Brown campaign:

    Republican challenger Scott Brown won the seat after AFF set up nine Twitter accounts in early morning hours prior to the election and then sent out 929 tweets in two hours before Twitter realized the information was spam. By then the messages had reached 60,000 people.

    This new 'Truthy' tool is far beyond my geek level, but I think that more skillful Kossacks could make good use of it to track the sources of twitter-bomb astroturf messages.  The 'Truthy' website can be found at .

  •  Now that we google everything, will information (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Moody Loner, Larsstephens, annieli

    be controlled by our google answer or will someone just make a better 'google' if they try to control the information?

  •  Interesting thoughts tongue and grooved (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    right into yesterdays thoughts watching the Magnificent Rally on my television set, with picture and all, untethered to a keyboard.

    Yesterday was a huge eyeopener for me, unplugged, live and direct, receiving the blessing of energy and passion from the real life activists from the trenches, the foot soldiers, union workers, nurses, docters, children, civil rights marchers with histories, the real bedrock of America,  real Progressives!!!

    I wonder how many of them are actually blogger?

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