Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Interview with Douglas Rushkoff

Douglas Rushkoff was interviewed on today's On Point. He was introduced as a "big thinker" about how humans are interacting with new technology, in the school of Marshall McLuhan.* I agree with his main assertion that networked computers (internet) is the biggest revolution since the invention of written text. He was also part of the Frontline documentary, Digital Nation. He reaffirms the assertions from that documentary and amplifies some themes:

  • Being born into the digital culture (immersion) does not automatically give the person a leg up on technology. It still takes work/desire to learn the things beyond the superficial layer.

  • Multitasking is not faster, even if the user believes he is very good at it.

  • Facebook (and other online social networks) do not exist primarily as a way to "make friends." Like any business entity, they exist to make money and otherwise "monetize" their online community. Rushkoff's explanation hit the nail on the head when he said that Facebook is asking users to build and to add to their known "consumer profile."

  • Update: 2011-01-26
    I have been thinking over "Rushkoff's Rules" and I posted the following comment to the On Point discussion:

    I found the program interesting, and I agree with many of the author's premises. He hits the mark on many points, especially about commercial entities like Facebook. However, I am not sure that his ninth rule is entirely on target. The digital nature of data with near zero cost of duplication and transmission dramatically changes the playing field. The internet allows anyone to self publish their work and cut out the middleman entirely. Some notable artist are onboard with the change and have given away creative works (Radiohead -> "In Rainbows", BF -> "Memento Mori", etc.)

    There is valuable information that can be had for near zero cost. The wikipedia is the most prominent example of in depth world knowledge online and available to anyone with an internet connection.

    There is also valueable software that can be obtained for no monetary cost. The free software and opensource software movements provide a working set of tools that can provide a set of baseline tools for accessing the digital world around us. Richard Stallman's GPL software license gives users rights that are unusual, especially in this context, where Rushkoff says that nothing is free. Stallman counters with these rights as part of his software license:

    0. the freedom to use the work,
    1. the freedom to study the work,
    2. the freedom to copy and share the work with others,
    3. the freedom to modify the work, and the freedom to distribute modified and therefore derivative works.

    Ironically, Rushkoff is advocating studying the work (listed above as Freedom 1.) It seems like Rushkoff and Stallman should be more on the same page with one another, rather than Rushkoff's blanket statement that "nothing is free."

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