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Program or Be Programmed by [Rushkoff, Douglas]
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Program or Be Programmed Kindle Edition

2.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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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

About the Author

Douglas Rushkoff is the author of 10 bestselling books on media and culture, including Cyberia, Media Virus!, Playing the Future, Coercion: Why We Listen to What "They" Say, and the novels Ecstasy Club and Exit Strategy.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 532 KB
  • Print Length: 152 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: OR Books (1 Nov. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #270,301 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Although I can't remember why, somebody suggested this might be a useful text for me to read. On the front cover is a quote from Howard Rheingold:

"Read this before and after you Tweet, Facebook, email or YouTube."

The book seems to contain a half cocked message that in order to use modern communication methods, specifically those that use the Internet, it is important to know how to program. Half cocked, because the author begins on the first page of his preface by contradicting this call. Certainly, the target audience for this book is not all users. The author makes frequent use of cultural references that will make sense only to those middle-class, slightly xenophobic Americans whose knowledge of computers is determined by the choices made for them by the sales assistant at Walmart, where they are likely to have bought their Windows PC.

"Meanwhile, kids in other countries – from China to Iran – aren't wasting their time learning how to use off-the-shelf commercial software packages. They are finding out how computers work."
—page 138

As a science teacher, I know that the most dangerous misconceptions are those that sound most feasible. Throughout this book, Rushkoff makes use of the feasible misconception that when human beings acquired language, we learned how to speak; when we gained literacy, we learned how to write; and therefore we will either create the software or we will be the software. Now, you could argue that those that control the media have the greatest power, and this may be true in history, but I am not convinced in this modern age where everybody blogs, Tweets, Facebooks and Instagrams more of the lives of men and cats, that this power is as absolute.
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As someone who works on and with the Web for a living I found this a short, enjoyable and eminently quotable book. Recommended!
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I suspect there's a decent book in here somewhere, but Rushkoff hasn't found it.
Disjointed, rambling, occasionally conspiracy-theorising, he doesn't really seem to know what he wants to say & certainly doesn't build any sort of an ordered case for it.

A shame, as the subject area is very topical & should be interesting.
Perhaps a stronger editor would have helped impose some order on this.

for now, save your money & your time
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All gr8!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x968dc6f0) out of 5 stars 49 reviews
66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9629d534) out of 5 stars Re-Humanizing Our Future 29 Dec. 2010
By Brent Finnegan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I haven't read Rushkoff's other books (although I might go back and read Life Inc: How Corporatism Conquered the World, and How We Can Take It Back).

Program or be Programmed is a quick read. I read it on the Kindle my wife got me for Christmas. The irony of reading a book about the pitfalls and possibilities of technology we don't fully understand on a device I don't fully understand was not lost on me.

I would describe this as an "Internet philosophy book" that might fit on the bookshelf somewhere between Neal Stephenson's In the Beginning...was the Command Line and Jeff Jarvis' What Would Google Do? But I found Program to be even more thoughtful and succinct than those books.

Quote from the book: "Instead of learning about our technology, we opt for a world in which our technology learns about us."

Rushkoff has proposed ten ideas/concepts/considerations for principles to live by online. He starts with the obvious -- don't always be online, live in person, be yourself -- and builds to the not-so-obvious. By numbers nine and ten, he's making the case for doing away with centralized currency because it's not compatible with the new digital world we've created.

The most intriguing aspect of Rushkoff's worldview is the realization that "we the people" have always been one step behind the technological innovation of the age. From the creation of a written language to the creation of the Internet, the majority of us lag behind the people in positions of knowledge/power who are creating the systems that shape our daily lives.

Quote from the book: "For the person who understands code, the whole world reveals itself as a series of decisions made by planners and designers for how the rest of us should live. Not just computers, but everything from the way streets are organized in a town to the way election rules [are tilted] begin to look like what they are: sets of rules developed to promote certain outcomes."

The ideas Rushkoff lays out in Program are powerful enough to have convinced me to at least attempt to learn some of the basics about computers and programming.

This book is worth checking out.
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9629d588) out of 5 stars Programming as a Liberal Art 24 Aug. 2011
By Nathan P. Gilmour - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To explain how I came across this book, I have to make a confession: since my family doesn't subscribe to cable television, the only time my kids or I watch cable TV (or much TV at all, really) is when we're on the road, visiting family or otherwise. My son, predictably gravitates to Disney and the Cartoon Network, but I'm a C-SPAN man. And when CSPAN-2 has Book TV, I'm watching it. So guess when and where I saw Douglas Rushkoff interviewed about his new book. That's right. When I can watch anything on cable television, I go to Book TV.

Confession out of the way, what makes this book worthy of the Neil Postman Award that it won (I just learned that such an award exists) is its refusal to let any digital technology become transparent, something that's a mere window through which we see the world as the world happens to be. From the first Arpanet connections to email to the ubiquitous vibrating phones (and accompanying "phantom phone buzz syndrome"), Rushkoff keeps his sharp eye on the assumptions that one has to make before the technology makes any sense: that one should adjust one's personal biological rhythms to the atemporal "always on" existence of computer networks rather than vice versa; that the world should conform its complexity to the reductionism of binary choices; and that human beings are meant to exist as infinitesimal nodes in a vast global network, just to name three. Spelling out those assumptions, Rushkoff does not so much give ten commands as ask ten penetrating questions, questions that ought to haunt human beings as we jump on board the Internet train.

Why ten commands, then? Rushkoff, whose approach to technology is the same secular-Jewish approach that Neil Postman made famous with Technopoly and Amusing Ourselves to Death, describes the rise of alphabetic writing as a technological change that made intelligible a genuinely new order of civilized life and the Torah in particular as that body of alphabetic writing which allowed the slave-tribes of Israel to develop into a genuine civilization in the ancient Near East. Likewise, Rushkoff suggests, folks in the Internet age are experiencing a genuinely new kind of consciousness, one as different from the print age's as the alphabetic consciousness would have been from the oral cultures which preceded it. His book is set of suggestions to help people navigate the new age the way that the Ten Commandments helped the Hebrews become Israel. If he were operating in a religious register, such a claim for his own book would be nothing short of ludicrous, but within his own Cultural Materialist framework, there is a certain degree of sense, on a formal level, to the analogy. A more adequate analogy for the Christian audience, I reckon, is the work that another book, perhaps written by one of our readers, might tackle.

The upshot of Rushkoff's ten brief chapters is that, like alphabetic language, computer networks do not regulate themselves. Just as alphabetic writing has the capacity both for glorious Psalms and the vain name-taking that one of the commandments prohibits (I'll let my readers supply the numbering, as Lutherans and Presbyterians do that differently), computer networks have the capacity both to slow down our processes of ethical deliberation and other forms of serious thought (as the old dial-up connections used to do, Rushkoff notes) or to enslave us to a pace of connection that journalists call "always-on" and the human body calls slow murder. Likewise, because information flows so easily on packet-switching networks, the Internet has the capacity to serve as the vehicle for a new culture of collaboration and cooperative creativity or as a place where nobody records music or movies because they're only going to get stolen. Each of Rushkoff's first nine "commands" follows the same sort of pattern, first noting the great potential for human flourishing that digital networks promises and then noting the danger for human destruction that the same characteristic threatens. Obviously this is the sort of cultural ecology that Marshal McLuhan and Neil Postman made famous, and Rushkoff honors his predecessors by showing the same attention to detail that they did, never simply replicating the analysis that McLuhan did of television or Postman of the early Internet but letting the particular observations that all of us should be making determine the shape of the analysis that Rushkoff offers.

The tenth "command" was the most interesting from my point of view because it included an explicit program for cultural renewal. As many of us who came through the public schools in the eighties and early nineties can attest, "computer classes" used to mean programming: whether it was LOGO in grade school, BASIC in junior high, or C++ in high school, we learned the tools to make computers do things that other people hadn't thought of before, and although our products were often puerile and sometimes entirely indecent (I hope they've discarded those old servers from the early nineties, I'll admit), still the fact remained that computers were, for us, what Rushkoff calls "anything machines," terminals that promised infinite flexibility for those determined enough to use it. Computer education has, of course, shifted since then: "computer literacy" now seems to mean the ability to operate (at a fairly complex level, to grant the point) programs that large corporations have already written, to do audio-visual presentations on out-of-the-box platforms and perhaps (in the really advanced courses) to edit photographs and video using software sold (at a premium) by the Apple corporation.

The point of this brief history of computer education is that Rushkoff wants to see programming reintroduced to the common curriculum, not only for those who are going to be information-systems professionals but for every citizen who's going to be an educated contributor to society. Against the conventional wisdom of the Web 2.0 age, Rushkoff insists that there's no place in a democratic society in the computer age for one class of programmers and a much larger class of end-users; like literacy and mathematics, to acquire a working knowledge of computer code is simply to know the fabric of the civilization that citizens are supposed to help run. Like Postman before him, Rushkoff calls for such an education governed not by the "specialists" in the field but by computer-literate, generally educated elder citizens, or to put it in our lingo, by digital humanists.

As someone who is not a computer professional (I'm an English teacher, remember?) but who has a working knowledge of some computer languages, Rushkoff's suggestions resonate with me. In fact, they struck me as so true that, upon finishing the book, I immediately went to one of the web resources, Learn Python the Hard Way, and started re-educating myself so that I can be a better teacher. (As I write this, I've completed lesson two.) I'm also lending this book (before this review goes live) to a computer programming professor at Emmanuel College so that he can read it and tells me what he thinks, and perhaps at some point, down the line, we can get going on a cyber-humanist club or some other kind of extra-curricular pursuit that combines insights from Neil Postman and Al Gore and Douglas Rushkoff with Christian-worldview sorts of resources from Arthur Holmes and Ed Cyzewski and Stan Hauerwas. (Yes, Al Gore wrote a pretty nice book of cultural-ecological criticism. I reviewed it here.) Until then, this is one of those books that hit me so hard that I can't just review it--I positively recommend it.

This review is cross-posted from the Christian Humanist Blog.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9696a0cc) out of 5 stars Excellent Summary of Issues in Digital Media 18 Jan. 2013
By Page - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In "Program or Be Programmed" Douglas Rushkoff argues for the need of people to be aware of the implications of transitioning into the digital age, and he urges readers to gain technical literacy in order to maintain control over their lives and foster opportunities for innovation. In ten commandments, he directs attention to the biases of digital technologies and the resulting negative and positive outcomes. Following a compact introduction, he breaks up his argument into concise and articulate justifications that culminate in a prompt to learn to program.

Rushkoff's book is filled with one-line zingers that summarize critical issues of debate regarding digital technologies with such eloquence that Larry Lessig and maybe even Evgeny Morozov would applaud (though Morozov would vehemently shake his head in disagreement with Rushkoff's optimistic outlook). As a student in an interdisciplinary major called Science, Technology, and Society, which mixes computer science and communication courses, I found myself nodding along with Rushkoff and occasionally vocalizing agreement at my computer screen. At one or two instances I sat puzzled wondering if he believes that he is Morpheus from "The Matrix" and that I, the reader, am the One.

There are many issues surrounding digital media--far more than a single author can provide full insight on. Rushkoff's work is interesting in that I can see it as a useful resource for a student just delving into these issues for the first time, and as a useful resource for a student who is familiar with issues touched upon in this book. It is a work of breadth rather than depth. Rushkoff jams statements into a concise synopsis that can be unpacked on many levels. It is a great starting point and roadmap. For its short length, the book is surprisingly comprehensive. However, this strength is undermined by the lack of references to relevant scholars within his discussion.

With no leads for the reader to go on, this insightful, concentrated stream of thesis statements seems to limit itself to food for thought when it is on the cusp of serving as a reference handbook to issues in digital technology. Rushkoff essentially gives the reader all the ingredients but no recipe; following his significant statements, Rushkoff moves on without pointing the reader to a relevant expert. For instance, he discusses choices and regulation, as well as remix culture, but he does not mention the widely known Larry Lessig, whose works would provide excellent depth to complement Rushkoff's breadth. Rushkoff also touches on the decentralization characteristic to post-industrial society, but he does not mention Richard Sennett or his highly relevant book, "The Culture of New Capitalism." Without directing readers to works that unpack Rushkoff's compact generalizations, readers will be unable to appreciate just how much weight Rushkoff's statements hold. Rushkoff does provide an "essential reading" bibliography at the end of the book, but readers would benefit far more from this book if Rushkoff at least mentioned the relevant experts at the end of each brief section and provided more literature references.

Rushkoff's perspective regarding the structure of digital technology aligns closely with that of Larry Lessig. Both authors emphatically demonstrate that programs are made by humans, and humans make decisions. This means that humans are making decisions for people who use digital technology. And while digital technology has benefits (which Rushkoff does an excellent job of acknowledging before making a case for concern), if people don't understand the way digital technologies work, then they are at great risk of becoming disempowered by a potentially empowering tool. The two authors both aim to generate awareness so that the reader understands that things are the way they are for a reason; decisions are behind everything we encounter. As Rushkoff states, "Our screens are the windows through which we are experiencing, organizing, and interpreting the world in which we live. They are fast becoming the boundaries of our perceptual and conceptual apparatus; the edge between...our understanding of the world and the world itself" (132-133). If we had to choose just one thing to take away from Rushkoff's commandments, above all it is that we should question, question, and question more. We should question why things are the way they are. We should question how we are behaving and whether we are happy. And if we are not happy, or if there is something we want to improve, it is up to us to decide to do something about it.

A unique element of Rushkoff's writing is his emphasis on the impossibility of humans, who run on biological time, to keep up with the demands of computers, which are discrete. Rushkoff provides a refreshing and realistic take on the speed with which people and companies accepted new technologies before considering whether it was really a good idea. Constantly getting emails can be a waste of time, and digital correspondence can be much less efficient than a simple telephone call. While his ten commandments describe how one can take a step back from digital technologies that have engulfed him, the most significant part of Rushkoff's work has to do with the empowerment of knowledge and the ability to program.

In contrast to Rushkoff's perspective about the ability of individuals to escape "being programmed" by learning to program (or at least by learning how digital technologies work), Evgeny Morozov delivers a thoroughly insightful blow to Rushkoff's optimism in his book, "The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom." The scholars agree on a variety of points, yet set unequal tones. The intersection of Rushkoff and Morozov interests me most. I am interested in debates concerning the future of digital media and the ability of individuals to act autonomously. How free can we be? How free will they let us be? Is there any way to act freely when we are tied to hardware? These are questions that fascinate me. By learning more about the technical side of digital technologies, I hope to better grasp answers to these questions.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9629d894) out of 5 stars Welcome our digital overlords 18 Oct. 2011
By Gary Schroeder - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Worried about the effect that ever expanding information technologies are having on global culture, our personal lives and how we interact with one another? Well, Douglas Rushkoff is (and if you're not, you either haven't been paying attention or you're too young to remember the pre-internet world). "Program or Be Programmed" offers some timely reflections on the state of what's happening to us now. Maybe future readers will look back and laugh...or maybe they'll look back and say at least someone saw it coming.

Some of Rushkoff's observations seem spot-on, while others are a bit more questionable. For example, he laments the lack of availability of computer programming classes at the high school level fearing that students are learning only how to operate the software without ever understanding the methods of its creation. That strikes me as an odd concern. One could just as easily argue that programmers are at a fundamental disadvantage lacking an understanding of the electrical engineering which makes modern microprocessors possible. That logic could be extended backward ad infinitum. (Do I need to understand Boolean logic in order to, say, build a website?)

His more astute observations deal with things like the often cited shortening of attention spans, the valuation of the recent over the relevant, the stress caused by the constant onslaught of new data (about which he says "for the first time, regular people are beginning to shows signs of stress and mental fatigue once exclusive to air traffic controllers and 911 operators"), and the separation of people from their physical surroundings ("our digital behaviors closely mirror those of Asperger's sufferers; low pick up on social cues and facial expressions, apparent lack of empathy, and the inability to make facial contact").

One of the more disturbing behaviors that omnipresent internet-enabled digital devices spawn is the attitude that a person's online representation of themselves (a sort of simulation of one's self) is more important than actually experiencing that life. This is a phenomenon in which it's more important to one's self valuation to be seen as being at all the right events, socializing with all of the right people having a better time than one's audience than it is to actually enjoy the event being experienced. We're all celebrities now (at least within our circle of digital followers).

He chronicles another familiar modern phenomenon: the mashup. Creative works that once stood as isolated and indivisible are now subject to infinite duplication, disassembly, rearrangement and publication as "new" works. Are they really new? If I rearrange the songs on your album and lay some new beats over top of it, am I an artist? Good question. It's something that the world's filmmakers will have to struggle with as their audience slices up their movie oeuvre and inserts characters from the film into a movie of their own making.

All is not lost, however. He highlights a positive trend in online communication: surfacing the truth. When statements are posted and circulated online which are inaccurate or flat out false, someone somewhere is going to see it and call out that falsehood. He says that "the way to flourish in a mediaspace biased toward nonfiction is to tell the truth." He quickly adds a caveat to that saying that "this means having a truth to tell."
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9629d6cc) out of 5 stars <body> Program this </body> 19 Mar. 2013
By Michael Tomasetti - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Douglas Rushkoff is the digital Moses, giving the 21st century its ten commandments to function in the digital age. He basically wants us to stop being "always on," "be our authentic selves online," "and learn how to program" - or be programmed ourselves!

The book uses parallels with the rise of the printing press, and those who wield the power, can control the masses. It's a thoughtful, and provoking book. Rushkoff has even backed Codeacademy - a site that offers free classes where you can learn to code. The book is a must for media theorists, techies, and those who question the times we live in, and those who control it.
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