Reading: Program or be Programmed


Douglas Rushkoff is an American media theorist, writer, columnist, lecturer, graphic novelist, and documentarian. He is best known for his association with the early cyberpunk culture, and his advocacy of open source solutions to social problems.

One of his most recent books is Program or be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age. In its ten chapters Rushkoff provides cyberenthusiasts and technophobes alike with guidelines to deal with the digital world without being controlled by it.

Read the introduction. PDF here

And leave a thought in the comment section below. I want more than a summary or a personal reaction (I agree/I disagree). You can start from this question:

Can you think of an example of a computational system or artifact that “programs” our lives or deeply affect our society? What are its bias and problems (if any)? Can you envision a better alternative?

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  1. max_gonzales

    Our society is currently highly dependent on GPS. Everyone from military personnel to the average citizen use GPS almost daily. GPS has made travel much more convenient and geographic knowledge more easily accessible. However, our society and younger generations are becoming extremely dependent on GPS to navigate their daily routes. Rather than memorize locations, routes, or travel logistics, much of society turns to GPS to traverse their environments. One issue is that GPS is dependent on a signal being provided, as when one looses their GPS signal mid-route they often panic, rather than resort to uses of maps, signs, or common knowledge. Although GPS may hinder some geographic knowledge, our society has greatly advanced and has become much more efficient with it.

  2. maddie_duque

    The tone of the introduction has a kind of “the internet at it’s purist” kind of feel to it. The idea that human beings can take these tools that are available to everybody and be able to use them for either their own purposes or to be able to collaborate towards something bigger without much restriction. This works the opposite way as well. Thinking in terms of programming in general being likened to being able to create something on the internet, people were making a huge deal over Net Neutrality because we all knew that we would have “let the programming control us” so to speak if the bill had passed. All of the content people would have been able to make would have been controlled by the ISPs, stifling the creative potential of the internet.

  3. Eryn

    As touched on in this article, we depend so deeply on the internet, usually Google and/or Wikipedia, to quickly look up facts and information. One would think that this is beneficial to have any information at our fingertips within seconds, but it seems the trend now is to not longer commit facts and problem-solving to our actual memory anymore. Just as with overuse of calculators eliminates the need to remember even simple addition and multiplication, if we need to know something it’s almost faster and easier just to look it up again than to try to solve it for ourselves. Also, even when facts are committed to memory for longer amounts of time, it seems rare that any deeper knowledge is actually known. News and trend articles are repeated and spread only by the knowledge gathered from their titles, rarely are the whole things actually read. Facts and tidbits are rapidly spread through social media at a click of a “share” button instead of really read, digested, and actually discussed. Almost everything is now accepted at face value, and the information that can be summarized into an eye-catching singular sentence.

  4. Irene

    Cameras in the digital age have definitely become a prominent and permanent aspect of our lives, and their depth and complexity are unknown to almost everyone. The chemical process of developing a photo in a darkroom has been reduced to a rare, expensive art, and few people understand the mechanics of digital photography. People press a button on their device, from their DSLRs to their iPhones, and the image is effectively captured and stored until the user deletes it. Although scientists and professionals in their field use and understand photography for work, much of the people in the world have absolutely no knowledge of the parts, structure, and history of a camera. Quick, instantaneous photography is so ingrained in our culture, but casual photographers cannot explain the process further than holding down a button.

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