Rushkoff: Program or Be Programmed

Loose notes from SXSW 2010 keynote by columnist / TV producer Douglas Rushkoff: Program or Be Programmed.

Catch especially his 10 commandments for life in the new world.

Notes below.

Rushkoff: Program or Be Programmed

Columnist and creator of PBS Frontline documentary “Digital Nation”

How quickly things get extreme, polarize until literally “the end of the world.”

I was more excited about the net before it happened than after it happened. Just like with Obama.

There’s a trip going on – both from the good trip people and the bad trip people. From the tea party Palinite Fox News insanity to the trickle-up variety. When I look at economy, government, corporations, I’m filled with the sense that we are trying to operate our society on code. Not just software, but social code, that’s legacy to what it is we want to get done.

There’s a sense of inevitability to whatever it is that’s coming. Is it the end of the world or the beginning of the world?

If you are not a programmer, you are one of the programmed.

A kid who gets dissatisfied with his video game goes off and makes his own Doom Wad. He went from consumer to editor to programmer.

Our civ has gone through these same stages in our evolution of media.

Everyone getting a laptop doesn’t make a nation of programmers – it makes a nation of bloggers. We get to type in the box Google gives us. I’m not saying this is bad, Im saying what it is.

The act/concept of programming is bigger (to our civ) than the printing press.

The book, and the biases of literary culture in general, are giving way to the biases of digital culture.

Most people don’t understand that technology has biases (e.g. they won’t recognize lock-in when they see it).

10 biases:

Time: Thou shalt not be always ON.
Online conversations that aren’t immediate are richer on the internet than they would be in meatspace because of the gift of time to brew in. Just a matter of saying “My time is mine.”

Distance: Thou shalt not do from a distance what can better be done in person.
Industrial progress has been about delocalizing. We’ve been using long-distance tech in short-distance situations. Powerful local companies become weak global companies, and vice versa.

Scale: Exalt the particular.
The net is biased to scale up. Not everything needs to scale, or should scale.

Discrete: You may always choose “None of the above.”
Everything is a choice. A record is a physical copy of something that happened. Digital is symbolic as text is symbolic.
You don’t want to live in “Snap to grid” mode, but the net works that way.

Complexity: Thou shalt never be completely right.
The net reduces complexity (contrary to popular believe)
Balance the folksonomy vs. multi-generational journey to create disciplines.
“Within 10 years, 2nd life will be indistinguishable from reality.” More likely our perceptual apparatus will no longer be able to tell the difference.

Kids raised on MP3s have something like 20% less ability to distinguish subtleties in music.

Noncorpreal/out of body: Thou shalt not be anonymous
Anoymity is good for some things but really bad for community, really bad for the social contract.
Out of body engagement negates non-verbal communication.
80% of communication is non-verbal now. That’s why we tend toward asperger’s-like, withdrawn, etc.
It’s liberating to adopt a strict sense of identity online.

Contact: Remember the humans!
We don’t have to deliver everything we do unto the hive for free.
It’s great to participate, but there’s a difference between giving content to a community vs. giving it to google.

Abstraction: As above, so below.
Abstraction makes games seem real when they’re not. Don’t make equivalencies that aren’t there.

Openness: Thou shalt not steal (nothing is free)
When there’s no social contract
The “free tv” model is not “open source”.
Some kinds of openness are just openness to colonialism.

End users: Program or be programmed.
Either you’re creating software or you are the software.
“But I don’t need to know how my car works in order to drive!”
“Exactly. As a result of not understanding the back-story, we have a giant transportation mess on our hands” (amazing rant on car culture here)

If we don’t create a society that at least knows there’s a thing called programming, then we will end up being not the users, but the used.

Weblogsky has a way more detailed analysis of the “Program or Be Programmed” meme.

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