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.
It is fair to say that caution is required when using a medium that is capable of recording great detail about one's activities. It is also reasonable that users should be more aware of how much that detail represents and how it is used. It does not follow that being a programmer makes one any less vulnerable to the big data harvesters.
"If men learn this [writing], it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows." —Plato, Phaedrus
Deferring to the machine the mundane and time-consuming tasks it is increasingly capable of, liberates us to participate in the higher order activities of our modern lives, at the cost, perhaps, of a certain fluency in completing those tasks for ourselves. This is not a matter of evolution (p.148) but rather an adaptation. I think I'm okay with that.
These things said, Rushkoff does make some rather useful suggestions for increased productivity and good manners: do not be always on; talk to the people you are with; be prepared to choose, "none of the above"; do not sell your friends; and pay attention to copyright. A more important command for the digital age is missing from this little book: caveat emptor.
Above review originally posted at http://cullaloe.net/w/index.php?title=Rushkoff2010
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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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