Week 1 Discussion

Discussion Assignment
* You will be required to post at least two thoughtful, well-constructed comments or responses in order to earn the full point value each week. Discussion posts must be copy-edited and proofread. Typos happen to everyone but a careful re-reading will allow you to rid your writing of most of them.

On page 21 of Program or Be Programmed, Douglas Rushkoff writes, “…instead of optimizing our machines for humanity–or even the benefit of some particular group–we are optimizing humans for machinery. And that’s why the choices we make right now (or don’t make) right now really do matter as much or more than they did for our ancestors contending with language, text, and printing.”

1. In a thoughtful paragraph, please explain:

  • What you think Rushkoff means by this.
  • Considering the state of modern technology in general and media specifically, do you agree with him? If yes, why?
  • Do you think Shields would agree? If yes, why?

2. In a second paragraph, comment on some other issue or idea you’ve come across in the week’s readings or post a response to another comment. Please be considerate and generous in responding to your classmate’s comments, even if you don’t agree with what they’ve written.

Please post your comments and responses below.


33 thoughts on “Week 1 Discussion

  1. Rushkoff is arguing that new media has been established to use humans as a way to complete a task at a more efficient rate instead of humans using machinery for this function; Rushkoff claims that the “programmers” have created media that uses humans to deliver message or advertise for the programmer, which ultimately controls the consumers. This is a viable argument because marketing strategies have intertwined with new media, where social/new media was a way to connect people and prompt conversation; now due to marketing strategies, brands have embedded themselves into these conversations. There is practically no brand existing that do not have a facebook page, a twitter account, or a pintrest page which encourages consumers to actively engage with the brands and pose conversation about these brands with each other, which virtual provides free advertisement.

  2. 1. Rushkoff, in this particular statement, is expressing concern over what he sees as the degradation of human innovation – the layperson, in particular – in the modern era. He sees today’s love of technology as troubling, specifically the ‘fetishizing’ of what he refers to as ‘new toys’. People and organizations conform to new technological trends because, as Rushkoff says, ‘they think they have to’. I would agree. I have also observed this urge to update, to get the latest and greatest, and it has been a consistent source for frustration and humor. It is mind-boggling to see, for example, a school district spend part of its thin-stretched budget on new tech which serves no practical purpose in the classroom. It is frustrating when these new technologies are employed as a fancy bauble to dazzle youngsters rather than teaching them valuable skills, and cause for humor (the kind which stems from that which is pathetic and sad) when said school districts brag about how ‘modern’ they have become (this is not always the case, but it happens more often than we’d like to acknowledge). Shields might observe these same disturbing tendencies, but he may not be as concerned about them as Rushkoff. After all, he says ‘culture, like science, moves forward.’ As an artist his primary concern seems to be how to employ these new technologies for the use of the artist. ‘You can work in these forms or use them or write about them or through them, but I don’t think it’s a very good idea to go on writing in a vacuum… art evolves.’

  3. 2. I think it is interesting that both writers, despite writing about two different subjects, bring up the current revolution of collective knowledge and experience, brought about by the new digital age. While Rushkoff is primarily concerned with the fact that control of this revolution lays with a few ‘techno-elite’, Shields seems only interested in the fact that it exists – and he wants others (specifically writers, storytellers, and artists) to understand that it exists as well. They both, however, share the sense of its importance and the fact that there is no going back. ‘We journey increasingly across boundaries, along borders, into fringes, and finally through our yearnings to quest, where only more questions are found,’ says Shields. ‘Program or be programmed,’ says Rushkoff. ‘Choose the former, and you gain access to the control panel of civilization.’ Both understand that our collective experience is undergoing a massive evolution – and digital technology is leading it.

    • Nthornbu,

      Your post prompts me to wonder whether our submission to the digital revolution is as compulsory as Rushkoff makes it out to be. He seems to suggest that with the technological innovations of recent years, our collective experience is evolving. But I am not so sure that the digital revolution is redefining our experience so much as it is augmenting it. Perhaps I am too hopeful, but I would like to think that there is something deeper than what is digital, a more essential collective experience from before the digital age, from before the analog age, from before even the rise of language, that will be salvaged as we progress in this millennium. There is nothing absurd—or at least nothing overtly impossible—in the thought of me severing my Ethernet chord with my own teeth, hurling my laptop through two panes of glass and out across the parking lot below my third-story window, and smashing my cellphone like a walnut between two bricks. One can live off of the grid, refuse the digital age altogether, and nonetheless maintain a shared experience with his fellow men at least in his being human. In this sense, I will have to disagree with Rushkoff. “Program or be programmed” is not a commandment demanding the acquiescence of every sentient being, but merely a choice to be made by us willing participants of the digital culture.

  4. Rushkoff is worrying about humanity rely on machinery weight much than before. He thought “we are having many problems engendered by the new technology”. We can almost do everything on our computers, such as, homework, interpersonal communication, business, etc. Our life is changed by technology. I agreed with him because people love technology. When an innovation diffuses throughout the society, more and more people begin to adopt it and use it. Buying e-books instead of regulate books, reading news online and playing video games are all current technology phenomenon. These kind of human behaviors would not happen before. Shield might not agree with Rushkoff because Shield cannot see the problem here. “Books for people who find television too slow” said Shield. He does not worry about the technology problem.

    • Just because Rushkoff and Shield are comparing different technologies, I wouldn’t say that Shield cannot
      see the problem. He writes that “the reign of the copy is no match for the bias of technology. All new works
      will be born digital, and they will flow into the library” (cite). Previous generations used to be able to define
      reality, however, as technology becomes the majority of our life, the value has shifted from the original. Our
      modern population no longer cares about the source or copyright. Instead, we believe whatever technology
      tells us to.

      • I would agree that the comparison of different technologies is not necessarily disabling to the arguments. The development of language was just as big of a shift for the people of those times as the advancement of mechanical technologies is for us. I also would say that our definition of reality becomes more skewed as time passes and what adds to that is that people now have the ability to create new realities and choose them over present reality and that this technology is something to watch out for.

  5. In this passage, Rushkoff diagnoses the way by which society has responded to the unfolding digital revolution. His point is cogent and hard-hitting. With the astounding speed by which the computer has proliferated in the past few decades, mankind has recognized the medium by which he will think during this new millennium. He has witnessed the opening of the digital age. But that is not to say he has already mastered it. We are like the ancient fathers of written language in that we have stumbled upon a new media which only the elite informed can fully manipulate. But we are unlike the ancients in that the fruit of our revolution has already become accessible to the masses. The computer is not so rare as was written word in the world of its progenitors. It has entered our lives unannounced and uninvited, before we had the chance to understand. In a panic to adapt, we have molded ourselves–perhaps blindly–around these strange thinking-machines, rather than optimizing them as the tools they could be. We rush to go digital, to sniff out the spaces in life where we might be able to squeeze a touchscreen or automated gizmo, all before we can comprehend what this entails for our freedom. As Rushkoff reminds us, the main result of this hastened and uninformed adaptation is no more than the fetishizing of technology. Shields, on the other hand, casts a rather optimistic light on the digital revolution, focusing his 42nd passage not on the digital illiteracy by which Rushkoff suggests we are enslaved to machines, but instead on the great melding of culture which has followed in the wake of digital technology.

  6. Rushkoff believes the cultural phenomenon of technology is shaping how humans function. People begin to think these programs being created will benefit them because their new, their accessible, their easy to function. However, people fail to think how these programs actually impact their daily lives. In this regard, Rushkoff argues society today faces issues with the new forms of communication being invented, that may or may not be, more important than those of the past. Modern technology changes so often that it becomes difficult to remain “in touch” with what’s being created, which gives little time for people to fully understand the new social media or technology and how it will affect the way they communicate with the people around them or why this new technology is relevant to the betterment of society. To that extent, I agree with Ruskoff. We fail to comprehend, unless we thoughtfully consider the purpose behind these 21st century programs, that we are reducing our capabilities to machines. As Shields explains through his extensive history of writing, it is evident society constantly had to morph itself as the ways people communicated changed. I think he would agree with Rushkoff in that there is a controller in the change (in today’s case it would be the programmers), but I think he would disagree with the idea that the choices we make are more important than those of our ancestors. The choices they made led to where we are today and the ones we decide to make will lead to how the future will be shaped. In this sense, all choices (be of the past or present) are made in equality. In the end Rushkoff argues if you do not want to fall into the trap of being programmed, you must become the elite, the person who develops the programs, which if you’re not a tech-savvy individual is not an easy feat to pursue.

    • It is interesting that you brought up the speed of technology changing which is something that Rushkoff did not reconize in his introduction. The rate in which new innovation arises makes it very challenging to know how to use new media to the best of its advantages. Learning new media is can be another “full-time” job which is not a welcomed responsiblity consumers want to take on. This factor allows the programmers to take advantage of the consumer market.

    • I like your sense of urgency in realizing our effects on the future.The idea of understanding and reforming has been underling our resent years. However I disagree that Rushkoff would infer the idea of becoming an elite. I would instead infer that Rushkoff is encouraging learning as a way to level the hierarchy of control over “the code.” If we analyze the present struggle with our new media forms and compare it with past human progression through similar issues, such as literacy, we find that avoiding elitism in information mediums is far desirable in any quest of the human experience.

  7. Rushkoff repeatedly mentions in his argument the shift we are experiencing. He says, “We are living through a real shift – one that has already crashed our economy twice, changed the way we educate and entertain ourselves, and altered the very fabric of human relationships” (25). We fail to see the influence of the digital world. And because of this inability to fully comprehend the ways in which society is changing with these technological developments, we cannot secure humanity as a whole will be bettered by the advances of technology. It is difficult to reconcile with the notion that our abilities are dwindling as programs are created to minimize our efforts. As computers become even more available, what will happen to writing by hand? We are already witnessing the effects of the digital world as the sales of newspapers decline. What will our world look like in ten years? 50 years? What will happen to us when we become too dependent on technology? Rushkoff says, “Yet, so far, we have very little understanding of what is happening to us and how to cope” (25). I’m curious to find out how he suggests we cope with the overpowering digital world.

    • I work at a library and recently attended a seminar about how technology will affect the future of the physical book. The presenter’s contention was that books will someday be like the candle is to us today. A century ago, candles were a vital part of everyday life, bringing light to the world. Today, candles aren’t essential to our daily function, but you won’t find anyone anywhere who doesn’t know what a candle is. Are eBooks the future of libraries? At what point do we consider our world completely “digital”? When we communicate only through digital media, what are we really saying?

  8. Rushkoff is arguing that society isn’t making the best of the emerging technology that surrounds us, and that consumers are pushed into buying products because they’re new and fashionable, instead of researching or understanding how useful the new gadget could potentially be. Technology, according to Rushkoff, “usurp(s) the value of human thought,” and I agree with this statement. Smart phone apps and social networks are popular means for students to procrastinate and waste hours at a time looking at things from cat pictures to memes, when their energy could be otherwise directed towards studying and being productive. However, Shields would probably not agree because he discusses how online information benefits society by being globally accessible, and how traditional means are no match for the online world because “the screen will prevail.”
    On page 23 of “Program or be Programmed,” Rushkoff claims that technology is hindering innovation and higher order cognition in general. I don’t completely agree with this statement because the increase of technology being integrated into daily life can be beneficial for innovation. Students have access to documents and peer-reviewed articles from online databases that they would otherwise have to compete for in a real library. Not only is the amount of time hunting for documents in person cut down through online searches, but also accuracy and efficiency of research is increased. Innovation is definitely increasing in today’s world with the limitless access to information people now have.

  9. In the passage on page 21 of “Program or be Programmed,” Rushkoff argues that we as a society are developing new technology not to improve humankind, but for the sake of developing new technology. This creates a detrimental problem: when users fail to use technology as a tool to improve society, humans are merely a tool for technology. I agree with Rushkoff’s contention that we have come to a vital point in the world of innovation, and I think Shields would also support his claim. Our ancestors were creators and innovators — they developed language as a foundation for society so that we had a means to communicate limitless ideas. We, on the other hand, create tiny, handheld devices capable of communicating across oceans in nanoseconds, but we say nothing. When innovation for the sake of societal benefit ceases to exist, society can no longer function — no matter how many apps we have.

    • I can also understand Rushkoff’s point when it comes to this quote but also think that what he is asking of society is pretty impossible. The little girl I was babysitting (4th grade) is addicted to her handheld device and can not even have a conversation when playing games. She also told me that she thinks in the future the iPhones will not have a calling option- only texting or facetime. I wonder if this is true and if it is what Rushkoff would say about the loss of face to face interaction as you mention.
      Also I think that innovation for the sake of societal benefit is what some technology companies think they are doing- these devices are giving us quick, fast and easy ways to communicate and that to them is innovation. It depends on how you define it. We as Americans really value immediate gratification no matter what the issue and this is why these devices keep changing– in this way I think they truly believe they are benefiting society. Interesting to think about!

  10. 1. In a thoughtful paragraph, please explain:
     What you think Rushkoff means by this.
    Rushkoff has an interesting way of setting up the book to lead us to this quote. It seems all the information that is prior to this quote is what he is trying to get at. The means of describing his argument about our society as a whole is challenging and made my brain stretch to understand the phrases he was placing together. When getting to this quote I believe he is saying that machinery and the new devices coming to us are so frequent that instead of focusing on one machine, we always want the next, which in consequence causes us to never truly learn the last that we kicked to the curb. Because of this, humans are not taking the time to pick apart these mediums/ technologies being handed to us. Which leads to the language, text and printing references, I believe Rushkoff brought this us because he is referring to the way humans made sense of these mediums handed to us years ago. The fact is things are not the same as they are in the past and never will be.

     Considering the state of modern technology in general and media specifically, do you agree with him? If yes, why?
    I can understand Rushkoff’s point and explanation of us as humanity but do not fully agree with him. I think that it is nearly impossible to expect the human species and those in our generation to fully comprehend and pick apart the objects of technology handed to us. Also, it would take the “elite” he is talking about to do something about this as well. For example, when purchasing an iPad- have an instruction booklet on how it is all programmed and how to program it yourself. It is just an idea that people are not concerned with, and although this may pose a problem for our generation and generations to come I do not yet get what Rushkoff thinks we can possibly do about this to change it. Perhaps I will understand more with the chapters to come. The fact of the matter is that people really don’t have time or energy to contemplate the technology the way Rushkoff wishes us to. I believe that everything that we have now is created and developed from these things in the past which in fact proves that we are thinking as societies. We are using the resources and ideas of the past and making them better and as efficient as they can be. Our economy wouldn’t be able to sustain and grow better by sticking with these old technologies. The people who are creating are not asking us to learn about their products. Buying these products is a form of flattery and is showing that we care enough and respect their work to purchase it. If we all learned these programming and processes then we could all make the product and that would lower the value of it. The fact that we have access to books on a screen rather than search through them is catering to learning abilities, not hindering them. How did Rushkoff write this book? Not on a laptop? Without these technologies Rushkoff wouldn’t have been able to create a cover for the book that appealed to us enough to buy it. It was edited through technology because it rises above human error. It is something to be valued not devalued.

     Do you think Shields would agree? If yes, why?
    I think he would agree. I think everything he values is the old works and he probably also thinks that our society is doing everything wrong.

    • It didn’t strike me that Rushkoff was arguing for a cessation of technological innovation. Clearly, there are incredible benefits to the developments of the 21st century. I also don’t think Rushkoff or any purveyor of complex technology could expect every consumer to put the time and effort into understanding exactly how that technology works. He even says on page 8 that “you don’t have to learn to program.”

      What I saw in Rushkoff’s argument, at least in this introductory phase of the book, was an urging for users of technology to keep in mind the fact that they have not even the slightest concept of how their machine is running, and that they are nevertheless depending on it to keep track of their work, finances, and any other number of important spheres of life. He encourages his readers “to learn that programming exists” (8), and remember that the programs they use do not develop in a vacuum – beyond flattery for its producers, the company releasing it had some motivation to make it, and a third party agenda is likely at play. He wants consumers not to rely blindly on technology, but to develop a sense for how to use technology carefully and intelligently.

  11. When humans developed language, text, and printing, all of the processes involved in production and distribution were directly managed by human beings. Even in the highly mechanized world of early printing, workers trained in the art needed to maintain the machines and lay the typeset by hand. Most flaws in translation from manuscript to print, and from print to reader, could be attributed to human error. However, with the advent of computers, Rushkoff points out that many of the processes involved in running programs take place completely outside the perception, much less control, of the person depending on the accuracy of their output. He adds that human beings have become obsessed with, and reliant on, technology that we do not understand, and any mistakes a program makes will go unnoticed by us if we don’t understand the coding driving that program. It’s as simple as trusting Word to spell-check a document instead of proofreading it by hand – a typo or grammatical error may still be ‘correct’ according to Word’s dictionary.

    On page 22, Rushkoff asks, “Where does my body end and the tool begin?” He is arguing that technology has taken on a role in society far beyond that which users are prepared to responsibly monitor. By stressing the importance of learning about coding and programming, or at least understanding that coding and programming can be used to further a third party initiative, he hopes to encourage a greater level of critical thought in consumers of technology.

    Shields struck me as viewing the technological leap of the 21st century as the natural progression of human intellectual evolution, whereas Rushkoff emphasizes the grandiose and unprecedented nature of the development of computers in the context of human history. Of course, I doubt Shields would disagree that monitoring the influence of technology on society is important; otherwise, he probably wouldn’t have written a book about it.

    • Kat,

      I enjoyed reading your post and thought it was very well thought out. I was also intrigued by the quotation questioning where the body ends and the tool begins. When I think about people who do lots of math and their reliance on a calculator for those equations, it makes me uncomfortable, especially since we (or at least I) generally don’t know how they work. How do we know they are right? I thought your connection to proofreading a word document was also very relevant, because all of us know how badly autocorrect can change/mess up a conversation or paper.

      I also agree with the gap that you pointed out between Rushkoff and Shields’ point of view on this subject. They seem almost opposing, but I think they would both agree about the importance of monitoring and documenting the changes that technology brings about.

  12. There’s something really like unsettling reading digital doomsday human obsolescence prophet-talk — stuff that’s really engaged in what it means, more or less, to be a squishy, feeling thing in the face of sturdy computing supermachines — stuff that talks very matter-of-factly about shifting technological paradigms and the shrinking human understanding of technology (or: our way of life) using words and terms like “highly articulated connections,” “new collective human brain,” and “techno-mob” in a book. A book. And I can talk about this stuff as someone who is socially and professionally invested in this very modern, sexy culture, but when it comes to talking matter-of-factly I can only speculate; so I’ll just speculate the following: 1) we (consumers and us people making the actual stuff) want nothing more than to humanize machines, because we’re not designing this stuff to supplant you (the consumer), we’re designing it to enrich the interactivity of human experience — because in all honesty you don’t want to ever again have a fifteen-minute back-and-forth of No, Where Do You Want To Eat —when you can ask Siri and she’ll (it’ll — which is just a testament to my point — that I said naturally “she”) pull up fifteen restaurants arranged by rating and you can go and eat and save fifteen minutes of your life, because that’s the ultimate point to all of this: that human time is valuable and needs to be maximized, that 2) I love being a machine; I answer all my emails before I even get out of bed every morning — there’s something romantic about being a machine (which carries a ton of its own problems and observations), but that ultimately 3) that what makes us uniquely human, our proprioception and extended minds*, our ability to show intention and all that jazz, is irreplaceable. I.e. that the choices we make right now will be the perfectly correct ones. We are where we are because we’re supposed to be here because we wanted to be because it’s what makes us happy as squishy feeling things. Shields seems to side and sympathize more with the natural embodiment of human intelligence. I don’t think he and Rushkoff would jive.

    * See: http://consc.net/papers/extended.html

  13. I’m uneasy that Rushkoff just sort of glances over two totally crucial topics in this whole digital v. human debate (I touched lightly on them in my first post but will only elaborate on the one I didn’t provide a link for): the embodiment of human intelligence: basically, the embodiment of human intelligence is an argument, more or less, that uses early good old-fashioned artificial intelligence (GOFAI) trials to point out that actually programming some digital thing to exist in our world is actually amazingly difficult and near impossible to do. GOFAI taught us, through the fifties and sixties, that we took our embodiment for granted. NFAI (self-explanatory/and GOFAI successor) has made some strides in the field, but it’s crown achievement is still only the self-cleaning vacuum cleaner. Viz., what I’m trying to say here, is that in more ways than not we’re totally obsolete already. But the thing you’ll never change is that a thing exists in a world. And while that seems like a very obvious statement, I invite you to bracket it and think about what it means for computer programs and for people and about who’s in charge, at the end of the day, regardless of computing power. You don’t have to be apart of the world.

  14. Rushkoff argues that technology benefits our living and represents our wisdom. In today’s society, people often follow the trends without understanding why they are following them. Instead of people governing the
    technology, technology governs the people. The formal style of the website teaches the user of its authority. Technology is telling its user what to believe instead of the user having the upper hand. Language, text, and
    print are so common in this society that we are trained to use different formats and styles to accommodate the situation. The modern population follows the standard format for e-mail or texting, whether it is formal
    or informal. However, previous generations lived without these standard rules; they developed the ability to discover the source of each product by referring to previous tests and resources rather than to trust the
    I agree with him considering the state of modern technology in general and the media. In today’s society, technology is so important that we are required to use and learn it. However, the more time we spend on technology, the more it controls us. “Computers and networks do more than usurp the value of human thought” (23). We are so dependent on technology that it consumes the majority of our life. We let technology tell us what we need or want to know. For example, we believe to trust Wikipedia even though
    we do not care about the validity of its sources. We are cultivated not to question, but to follow whatever technology tells us. We are told to be creative, however, society tells us knowing how to create the program
    is not as important as knowing how to use it.
    I think Shields would agree. For example, in the Bible people incorporate “real things” into the text, and the Mosaic Law claims that the events really happened. Today no one can prove whether Jesus and the events written in the Bible existed or not.. However, he still has loyal followers in modern times. It has become a habit that people learn to accept beliefs without questioning their origin. Technology expands our knowledge, however, it also limits our wisdom. Believing in Jesus is like knowing how to program, we do
    not care where it comes from as long as it follows the trends..

  15. Rushkoff could mean that as a people we are being programmed to consume. Technically speaking many of the youth today are taught to do just that. The ads we see on TV are all about consumption of what is new. You must buy the new technology- even if the current product you already own is only a month old. In the intro he mentions that this is a choice but then he also hints at the fact that the decision is already made. He straddles the fence on the idea of choosing but then references how the choice is possibly already made. I disagree with the idea that people don’t have a choice if they choose not to participate in technology or the education on said topic. Why? Because my mother to this day doesn’t have a personal email address or a home/personal computer and she is still alive and kicking. She still knows how to adapt and adjust to new ideas. She might not like it, but she can still do it. It doesn’t make her stupid or any less of a ‘layperson.” Which brings me to another issue I had with this intro, did anyone else think Rushkoff is super condescending?

    • I absolutely agree with you. Rushkoff comes off as a little too doomsday for the problem at hand, which is that people aren’t learning to program efficiently as fast as he thinks is necessary. He keeps saying things like “our own obsolescence dooms” and “Contemplation itself is devalued”. In making statements like that, I feel like he is using a scare tactic against digitalization and the end of humanity as we know it, rather than making a rational call to educate people on the new technology. He looks at it as if it is an obstacle to overcome, an evil to be eradicated, rather than real and true progress. He says that we adopted the technology “irreversibly”, as if it was a mistake to use the resources available to us. I agree that the anonymity of the internet has made a lot of what is put out on it extreme. But I don’t think that humans are devaluing contemplation. There is true art to be found on the internet, amidst the trolls and the crazies.

    • I think that Rushkoff also comes off as condescending, but maybe because he really DOES know how how detrimental technology can be to humans. My mom is also not very technologically savvy, and she gets by. She is one of the most social people I know, and I think by her not having a Facebook, she is actually more social than other moms her age who spend a lot of time browsing other peoples’ lives instead of actually talking to people. The problem is that people like my Mom are the minority, and on the opposite end of the spectrum you have people that cannot escape the technological jail they’ve put themselves in.

  16. “Every proper artist is ore or less a realist according to his own eyes.” Sheilds, seems to indicate in this statement that perhaps he would agree with the extremes that Rushkoff presents. But does acknowledging extreme choices and presenting them as possible realities really portray them as realities of others or just of the author/artist? Shields’ opening line states, “Every artistic movement from the beginning of time is an attempt to figure out a way to smuggle more of what the artist thinks is reality into the work of art.”
    This is interesting considering Rushkoff proves this theory in his intro and preface when he presents his take on reality and where he believes we are headed as a society of laypeople. So, in a sense it’s not just artists in the painting sense, it’s more all inclusive in terms of creative people, in my opinion, anyway. Artists in the historical sense, at least those whom of which have left a lasting impression were ones that refused to follow the norm, or “program.” Example: Picasso.
    If you bring artists into the mix it throws Rushkoff’s argument out the window because artists are typically people who *gasp* think for themselves. They create. They aren’t programmed to create by others. They don’t think like everyone else. These are the type of people he doesn’t address that have the potential to rise up against the machines and programmers. Why? Because they don’t just think for themselves, they can create, too. Rushkoff also fails to mention that it was free thinkers and creators that got us here today. Those system-bucking individuals earned their way into power via resisting the system. Those people are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

  17. Rushoff thinks the technology is controlling our behaviors and lowing our functions, and we all face a problem by relying on technology. I must admit, I am less functional than before. I love to type rather than write, I read e-book sometimes, and I just cannot live my life without computer. However, I want to say technology is one of the greatest innovations in 21st century. Most people don’t know how to make the digital technology but they know how to function it. They entertain my life and make it easier. I need them to work for me. Rushoff said “ …you will either create the software or you will be the software. It is really that simple: program, or be programed”. I am trying to say here, is that I am neither of these. It is a new world, and it is going to be one new thing other than “program” and “be Programmed”.

  18. In this statement I think Rushkoff means that we as people are choosing to elevate machines above ourselves. We are looking for ways to make humans more like computers, or surrendering our human differences to computers, instead of trying to better humanity and ourselves with our mechanic inventions. In order to prevent this from continuing and going any further people need to become aware of what is happening and have the correct tools themselves to react or not react however they so choose. I do agree with him because I have noticed the values of society around me shifting. When I was younger I would go play outside or interact with people but my younger siblings don’t like to read, they enjoy playing on their ipods or iphones and I don’t think this is something they should be so dependent on, especially at such a young age. I think Shields would agree in some aspects, such as the changing “reality” and the need to react to it.

  19. Rushkoff is making a rather melodramatic statement here, that humans are being “optimized” for machines, that, in essence, if we don’t learn to control the new digital media that is being introduced, it will eventually control us—program us, if you will. He states later on in the introduction that there are a specific group of people who will be in control over this new ‘order’, for lack of a better word, and these are the people who know how to program. I completely agree that programming computers is an extremely important skill that is undervalued in our education system right now, but that isn’t to say that people are not coming to that realization very quickly. I personally know several people who know how to program in many different languages, and some of them are self-taught. A Google search on learning programming languages will find you teaching systems that are specially designed with elementary school children in mind, or middle-school aged children, or high school. I don’t think we are far from the age where introductory programming skills are taught as part of a student’s basic education. It is true that this new age of technology is developing very fast; within the few decades that the computer has existed, there have been numerous new programming languages designed, each better or more focused than the last. It has progressed faster than the formal education can keep up with, but that doesn’t mean it won’t catch up.

    Shields doesn’t really make the same argument as Rushkoff, but the section—section 45—of the reading for today made it seem as though he is possibly wary of the same thing as Rushkoff, the imminent diminishing of human thought or art, or even production. It is the wording that he chooses to use: he says that “the novel retreated from narrative, poetry retreated from rhyme”, as if, as time progresses, the art is becoming something less than what it had been before.

  20. By claiming that humans are being “programmed” by machinery and more specifically, computers, Rushkoff suggests that the digital revolution that is currently underway is different, and significantly more advanced and important, than previous revolutions such as the Industrial Revolution or the Axial Age invention of the 22 letter alphabet. He suggests that the digital revolution is different because computers not only help us in our daily life, but they can think and make decisions for us.

    While I think that it is important to stay up to date about happening technologically, I don’t think that this type of black or white thinking about the situation makes sense. I don’t think that computers will control us if every person doesn’t learn computer programming. While I see the threat and the logic behind his argument, it doesn’t seem to leave any room for middle ground. Perhaps not everyone (to use his metaphor) wants to be a driver, and some people are content with being a passenger. Not everyone, in my opinion, needs to be a computer programmer just like not everyone needs to be a leader. I’m not suggesting that we should be passive followers, and believe that there is only one supermarket in town because that’s what we’re told, but I think there’s value in people who let someone else take the wheel once in a while.

    I think that Shields would disagree with Rushkoff’s statement that we need to reinvent our thinking and basically our society so that it is in our control. Shields seems to have accepted that any ideas we come up with now have already been though of. All of our stories have already been told. I understood his collage of information as an appreciation of the knowledge that has come before us, not a cry for reinvention.

  21. On page 21 of Program or Be Programmed, Douglas Rushkoff writes, “…instead of optimizing our machines for humanity–or even the benefit of some particular group–we are optimizing humans for machinery. And that’s why the choices we make right now (or don’t make) right now really do matter as much or more than they did for our ancestors contending with language, text, and printing.”

    In this statement, I think that Rushkoff is saying that the current theme of how humans are using technology is neither productive nor is it good for the well being of society. Most current users of technology are not the ones using, but the ones being used. Instead of humans using social media as a way to connect, social media is often a reservoir for boredom or disconnectedness; also people may feel anxiety and disconnected if they do not check social media websites such as Facebook regularly. The choices we are making right now in the way we use technology is crucial, because it has evolved to a point that reaches far above the comprehension of any human. The habits we form as a human race right now are going to be observed by future generations and will ultimately set the standard as to how we use technology, or Rushkoff’s fear, how technology will use us. I definitely agree with him, I think that people have become slaves to new machines, apps, websites, and technologies. The internet can be a great place for networking and information, as long as we understand how to effectively use these things without being a mere pawn in the chessboard of the World Wide Web. I think that Shields would agree with Rushkoff in the sense that technology has evolved along with society and that we as a society need to react in the correct way.

  22. I may be the only one to point out the irony of Rushkoff publishing his book in 2010. But with the surge of attention to online activity that came with the SOPA and PIPA protests, it is logical to conclude that if published 2 years later Program or Be Programmed would have had yet another dimension to the idea of a read/write world, what happens when sharing is dictated not by what I want my work to accessed as, but what another wants my work to be accessed as. Obviously in a digital life of more or less borrowed and “read/rewrite” can get complicated with more parties.
    Political points aside, Douglas Rushkoff is trying to get to a simple point, we need to know our technology or we can become controlled by it. Its not simply programming, but understanding. Rushkoff, like the rest of us, have come here “not physically” to take about how we interact with technology, however the more we view our interactions, the more inclined we are to say that technology is interacting with us. Its not a line between programmer and layperson anymore (programming can be learned from YouTube videos) but a division of people questioning and inquiring compared to mindlessly following links and creating post.
    I claim this from the mere fact that programming has changed, its not the zeros and ones that it was once cracked up to be. Now programming is a simpler, tool assisted process. One which we have all taken part in (often without knowing). Its not knowing how to create an Word Document, email, or post; but knowing how to use Microsoft Word, Outlook, and Facebook. Knowing and taking advantage of the new world at our feet is programming. In this point I must agree.
    In my opinion David Shields would also agree, as his book exist as a testament to taking control of a changing world of human interaction

Leave a Reply