Douglas Rushkoff is an American media theorist, writer, technology commentator and documentarian. He is best known for his association with the early cyberpunk culture, and his advocacy of open source solutions to social problems. Rushkoff is also known for coining terms and concepts including viral media (or media virus), digital native and social currency. He has written many books on media, technology and culture—as well as fiction works and graphic novels. His new book, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, is now available for preorder and will be released on March 15, 2013. Rushkoff was born on this day in 1961.
Two years ago, at WebVisions 2011 in Portland, I had Rushkoff sign my copy of his 2010 book Program or be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age. As we chatted, I told him I worked at a university. He then asked about the learning management system my employing university uses to deliver courses online. I told him Blackboard (and possibly sighed bleakly). In reply, on the inside of the book, Rushkoff wrote, “For Ian – Blackboard is intentional,” and signed his name. His comment points out that software interfaces (and screens, in general) force users into particular patterns of thought, both subconsciously and consciously. Corporate models of screen-mediated learning are increasingly shaping how individuals understand the world, but to whom is the UI/UX in service? In a global sense, who stands to benefit most from the way our brains are being trained to consume/learn in this digital world? Related to these questions is another recent Rushkoff book, Life, Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back, for which there are many interesting videos available.