Greetings Happy Mutants

Rushkoff_PortraitEDIT.jpgDouglas Rushkoff, here. Mark graciously invited me to guest blog for the next two weeks, in celebration of the release of my first book explicitly about digital culture, Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age (for which BB readers get an additional 20% discount if they type the code BOING in the discount box on the last screen).

In all honesty, the book brings me back to the core values that have been espoused here on Boing Boing since the beginning: these technologies are the most fun and the most useful if we have some idea of how they work, and if their workings remain accessible to us. Knowledge of the codes - both digital and otherwise - is the best way to begin changing them. Meanwhile, an awareness of some of the more dehumanizing biases of some of these tools and spaces helps us keep our digital communities productive, collaborative, and happily mutant.

For me, this was the core insight of using these technologies in the first place. As a kid raised on television, I was inspired by how computers allowed me to get behind the screen and change what was in there - even share what I did with others. It seemed to me that once people experienced the mutability of online spaces and systems, they'd begin to see the mutability of real world spaces and systems, too.

But over the years, as interfaces get thicker, devices get locked down, and the real programs and agendas behind the tools we use get more obtuse, I'm finding people quite willing to treat technologies as given circumstances. The cyberpunk insight I tried to share with others in religion, government, and economics seems somewhat scarce right here in cyberspace. I talk to kids - the ones I once extolled as "screenagers" - now accepting programs like Facebook at face value: they think Facebook exists primarily to help them make friends, and accept the system's embedded values as if Facebook had no agenda of its own. This is a perception I think communities like this one help to change, and I'm honored to be among you as a reader, commenter and, now, poster.

My posts over these two weeks will be likely be biased toward my own current fascination with people and organizations who are changing the rules and inviting others to do the same. But I will of course be on the lookout for anything of value to share with you for your appraisal and discussion.

(Portrait by Leland Purvis)


  1. awesome, welcome back! Looking forward to reading your posts again!

    It was great to meet you in Budapest a few months back, hope you can come again!

    1. Darn! I spent thousands on books, movies, video games, and software this year. Are you telling me I was duped, Fyodordos?

      1. Mark, This is great news! When you get a moment, please call the following retailers and tell them I’ll be by for my refunds tomorrow: Aquarius Records, Dog Eared Books, Embarcadero Center Cinema, and, of course, Unfortunately, I think Kayo Books has a stated policy against refunds due to a lack of awareness of my own espoused values.

    2. So me buying his book doesn’t count? Or me buying Life inc? I love this guy and I’ve totally given him money, it’s not about a mad rush to get content for free, it’s about paying for the content I like.

  2. fyodordos: What does your comment mean? I’ve been perusing BB for quite a while..and can not recall a single instance of BB or it’s readers espousing digital theft. Perhaps you are thinking of Pirate Bay?

    Cool, Douglas Rushkoff! Extremely excited to see your presence here. I, for one, heartily agree with what you say re: today’s kids/people accepting technologies like Facebook at, ahem, face value. However, I see nothing new in the social realm with this. Corporations have been pushing their brain washing technologies down the throats of people for decades now. Whether it’s the “feel-good freedom” imagineered into commercials like Coca-Cola had in the late 70’s (I’d like to buy the world a coke…) or the subtle pseudo-rebellion certain car manufacturers attempt to cultivate in their vehicles to sell to Gen X’ers and Gen Y’ers – the general public has typically been at the mercy of one corporate psychology theory or another.

    I’d like to point out that with the rise of technology &, by extension, the power of corporations to use that tech. towards their own ends (profit, profit, profit at our cost.) so, too, rises an awareness against that. For instance, tho’ perhaps not the single best example, is an ever-growing counter-movement away from facebook & its ilk.

    anyway, thanks for coming to BB. Can’t wait to read more of your thoughts over the next several days.

  3. “now accepting programs like Facebook at face value”

    As someone who was introduced to the internet pre-web, I have the occasional sting of disappointment that everybody who comes to the net nowadays is learning to think it’s fine if “the internet” only comes to them predigested through channels created, controlled and maintained by some other entity. The best example being apps (and Facebook is just a very elaborate app) that do things that a browser should just do, while taking away the choice of doing it with some other browser if you don’t like the one that came on your device. Don’t like the news app that won’t let you view stories from Reuters? Too bad, you shouldn’t have bought the brand X phone. I realize that’s an extreme example, but I see information pipes being rigged in that direction and it’s bothersome to someone who has always been used to the data just being out there, agnostic to the method by which it was going to be viewed. “There’s index.html, just have at it!”

    Sorry to grumble. It’s actually nice to meet you and based on what I’ve read here it sounds like you’ll have some interesting stuff to share.

  4. Thanks. That means a lot.

    I know some of what I share here doesn’t resonate with everyone, but I think that’s the whole point. And usually the discussion eventually lands somewhere that we all learn a thing or two.

  5. Yay! Glad to see you around. “the mutability of real world spaces” made me think of how funny it would be to unbolt park benches, and turn them all to face the opposite direction. Would anyone even notice?
    Or better yet, arrange them in a circle. :)

  6. Mr. Rushkoff,

    Glad to see you around here.

    Just wanted to let you know I miss hearing your voice over the media squat podcast. I learned a lot those months you were doing it and I hope it happens again. Your explanation of economies and currency are wonderful for a lay person like me. Many thanks and keep up the excellent work.

  7. Doug, look forward to reading more of your insightful words here! They tweaked my mind as a teenager in the 90s, and as always, you seem to be on point. Thank you, and I look forward to seeing what you have to say today!

  8. Very cool choice of a guest blogger, I’m looking forward to see what Mr. Rushkoff has to say over the next two weeks. I’ve really enjoyed many of his books, especially ‘Bull’ and ‘Media Virus’, which was a big influence on my thinking when it came out.

  9. Facebook’s ‘hidden’ agenda is pretty clear: Glean and simulate an intimate profile of each Facebook member and then sell the profile in slices to multiple corporations for humongous profits.

  10. Thank you for the thoughts. I actually used to have those, before the time I ate these cacti I found in the desert. It’s been happy mutantism ever since.

  11. Your Facebook example reminds me of how I felt when I first used a 300 baud modem on an 8-bit computer. The potential for this was (and still is) so huge! But the efforts to turn it all into another kind of television channel have been largely successful.

    Back then you were expected to learn how to program your own machine, and the computer makers wanted to help you do that. Now, not so much.

    The shit’s going to get real as more people figure out how to use computers to negotiate their social contract directly with others, sidestepping banks and governments and ‘content providers’.

  12. Welcome. Looking forward to your posts.
    You comment about interfaces is true. And it’s intentional. I’ve worked with the founders of some of the biggest hardware and software companies in the world. The desire to lock people in and keep people out of the “guts” ran through them. When one did open things up it was seen as a mistake even though it ended up profiting them.

    I’d like to read some posts about companies that didn’t get their clocks cleaned by “real” business who care about profit first.

  13. Started reading the PDF of your new book tonight. Wonderful work.Would love to get the in the hands of my students now, but alas, will probably have to wait till next semester to fit it into my class schedule. Let me know if there will be any discounts for large-scale orders, and I’ll get the campus bookstore buyer on it as soon as possible.

  14. I just finished reading Program or Be Programed, and it makes me want to learn programming, even if I am 56 and an English major. Thanks! And I love the publisher’s ebook attitude–it makes it easy for me to read on my many platforms.

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