Boing Boing 

Douglas Rushkoff

Winner of the Media Ecology Association's first Neil Postman award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity, Douglas Rushkoff is an author, teacher, and documentarian who focuses on the ways people, cultures, and institutions create, share, and influence each other's values. He is technology and media commentator for CNN, and has taught and lectured around the world about media, technology, culture and economics. His new book, Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age, a followup to his Frontline documentary, Digital Nation. His last book, an analysis of the corporate spectacle called Life Inc., was also made into a short, award-winning film.

Great Graphic Novels: Gods' Man, by Lynd Ward

GreatgraphicnovelsLast month I asked my friends to write about books they loved (you can read all the essays here). This month, I invited them to write about their favorite graphic novels, and they selected some excellent titles. I hope you enjoy them! (Read all the Great Graphic Novel essays here.) -- Mark

My first experience of what I would call a graphic novel was this strange hardcover book I found when I was a kid on a sleepover. I couldn't sleep because I was allergic to the cats that kept climbing on top of me in the bed, so I went into the living room and started looking at their books. And I found a volume like nothing I had ever seen: an old, hardcover book with no words. It was the 1929 edition of a "novel in woodcuts" called Gods' Man, by Lynd Ward.

At first I thought it was a collection of pictures, until I began at the beginning and realized it was meant to be a story. I don't remember the plot so very well -- something about an artist fighting against internal, external, and metaphysical obstacles. But it impacted me in the epic way some other visual work of the early 1900's hit me, such as Metropolis or the big Napoleon movie. Or even some sort of Kurt Weill opera. Or Ibsen's Peer Gynt.

It's a hundred or so prints in thick black and white, and I didn't consider it a comic at the time -- just some strange artifact of an art form that no one else pursued. And only now does the graphic novel world seem developed enough to experiment with wordless, operatic narratives like this.

God's Man, by Lynd Ward

Enthralling Books: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

This is one in a series of essays about enthralling books. I asked my friends and colleagues to recommend a book that took over their life. I told them the book didn't have to be a literary masterpiece. The only thing that mattered was that the book captivated them and carried them into the world within its pages, making them ignore the world around them. I asked: "Did you shirk responsibilities so you could read it? Did you call in sick? Did you read it until dawn? That's the book I want you to tell us about!" See all the essays in the Enthralling Book series here. -- Mark

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The book that most enthralled me -- or at least first enthralled me on the level you're talking about -- was Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. I was in college, on my way to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to direct my friend Walter Kirn's play "Soft White Kids in Leather," loosely based on Warhol's Factory. Although I had read up on a lot of the New York scene of that era, it wasn't until I found Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (in the mass-market paperback edition in one of those used book bins) that I realized I had finally found someone who could not only express the experience of the group trip, but could also articulate the dynamics and ideology of the psychedelic commune. (Yes, Kesey and the Dead were the West Coast, tie-dyed counterpart to the black turtleneck culture of Warhol and Leary. But the sense of commitment to higher ideals and convenient forgetting of more day-to-day ethics were common to both scenes.)

Anyway, once I started this one I couldn't stop. This was back when taking a trip to Europe was still a really really big thing, so I had planned to travel from Italy to England to Scotland over a slow week of touring before starting rehearsals in Edinburgh. But I spent most of my time in hotel rooms and cafes just reading this book. Twice.

I don't think anything Wolfe has written really comes close, except maybe some of the essays. The book was my model for Cyberia - a similar foray into a psychedelic culture, where some fictionalizing was required to convey deeper non-fiction truths. I hope there's another psychedelic renaissance of this magnitude in my lifetime, just so I have the chance to write or even just read about it one more time.

Mind Blowing Movies: Invaders from Mars (1953), by Douglas Rushkoff

Mm200This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. -- Mark

Mind Blowing Movies: Invaders from Mars (1953), by Douglas Rushkoff

[Video Link] The first film that blew my mind was Invaders from Mars -- the 1953 version. I was 6 when I saw it, in a motel in Phoenix (my first motel stay) with my family on the way to the Grand Canyon. There was a metal box on the nightstand, and if you put a quarter in, the bed would vibrate for ten minutes.

And on that vibrating bed, with my brother and father, I watched this movie about a kid whose dad changes into this other guy who looks the same but is actually a bad man. And no one believes the kid. And I totally knew what the kid felt like. And he does everything right -- even going to police when the stakes get high enough, but by then the chief of police has been turned into one of these alien people, too.

It ended with the kid seeing the head alien octopus creature in a glass bubble, but even though that was supposed to be scary I saw it as vindication. There really was an alien invasion, and it was captured on film. (My sense of reality watching TV hadn't been fully formed, yet.)

And from then on, whenever my dad was mean I'd check the back of his neck to see if he had been changed.

A.D.D. comic book: Exclusive essay and excerpt by author Douglas Rushkoff

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Everyone seems to have A.D.D. these days. (In case you’ve been too distracted by your Twitter feed to remember, A.D.D. stands for Attention Deficit Disorder -- the inability to focus on any one thing for too long, the urge to do nine things at once, and the hyper, constantly shifting, unsettled feeling that goes along with it.)

Apparently, it’s an epidemic -- particularly among boys, and especially among those who love video games. And so video games are now blamed for destroying their brains, and their capacity to become productive members of society.

But, to me anyway, something never felt right about this line of reasoning. Even if playing video games and answering txt messages shortens the attention span, what if it broadens the attention range? What if the downsides of an A.D.D. approach to life were actually offset by some other, still unidentified advantage? Or in computer programmer’s parlance, what if A.D.D. weren’t a bug, but a feature?

In fact, this whole Attention Deficit craze really only began in the late '90s, a few years after the Internet business magazines unanimously declared we were living in something called an “attention economy.” The idea was that the Internet is essentially limitless in its ability to hold content. The only limiting factor on how much money media companies can make off us in an age of infinite bandwidth is human attention itself.

They came up with a new metric, “eyeball hours,” to describe the amount of time they could keep someone’s attention glued to the screen. Media companies arose to make websites more “sticky” so that people -- especially kids -- would end up spending more of their eyeball hours stuck on their web pages.

Over the next decade, prescriptions for Ritalin -- the leading A.D.D. drug, otherwise known as “speed” -- went up by about 5000%. Were real cases of the formerly rare sensory disorder multiplying at this rate? Were they simply being diagnosed more easily? Or was something other than A.D.D. now getting labeled this way?

That’s when I started to believe that at least this new breed of Attention Deficit Disorder may not be a sickness but a defense mechanism: an adaptation to a world where someone -- usually some corporation -- is trying to program us everywhere we look. Fast channel surfing and short attention spans are not deficits but strengths -- weapons, really -- in the battle for human consciousness.

When I think about kids being diagnosed by public school guidance counselors and then drugged to pay better attention, I can’t help but suspect we are no longer treating a child but repressing the messenger.

So I decided I wanted to tell a story in which A.D.D. was quite literally a bug that was being turned into a feature. Following the what-if structure of science fiction, all I needed to do was ask who would do such a thing to kids, and why? And what would happen if it worked? What would American, videogame-playing “new type” mutations look like, and how would they relate to the world in which we are living?

The story in A.D.D. may be fiction, but the war on our minds and against our resistance is as real as the mediaspace in which we live. They mean to occupy our reality before we occupy theirs.

Buy A.D.D. (Adolescent Demo Division) on Amazon

Read Cory's review of A.D.D.

After the jump, an exclusive excerpt of Doug's A.D.D. comic book, published by Vertigo.

A Farewell Excerpt

I'm done with my guest posting this weekend, and very happy for the opportunity to engage with everyone from this side of the blog. I'm still a concerned that too many people here have gotten the wrong idea about what I'm hoping to accomplish with my new book. Something about being told to "Program or Be Programmed" has come off as alarmist or negative, which is not my intent. I do think most people in a digital age would be better off with some knowledge of programming, or at least some awareness that it exists: that there are many ways of doing things, and that the systems we use have been created by people and institutions with their own agendas. Money and banking are great examples of systems that look like they're just here, but were actually carefully devised long ago to serve the agendas of people other than most of us. (There used to be many other forms of money that lived alongside central currency - just as we might someday be able to say there were other kinds of operating systems that lived right alongside Google's iPad.) So as a parting and aggregating effort to make the positive and ultimately Boingish point about the possibilities for mutation offered by a digital technology to the kind of smart and open society BoingBoing explicitly supports, here's a link to another excerpt from the book, posted over at Reality Sandwich this morning. It has been a pleasure and challenge to write for and engage with you. Thanks. And special thanks to Mark for hosting me, David, and Xeni for fixing my posts, and Cory for fixing my brain. As always, Douglas
Our screens are the windows through which we are experiencing, organizing, and interpreting the world in which we live. They are also the interfaces through which we express who we are and what we believe to everyone else. They are fast becoming the boundaries of our perceptual and conceptual apparatus; the edge between our nervous systems and everyone else's, our understanding of the world and the world itself. And they have been created entirely by us. But -- just as we do with religion, law, and almost every other human invention -- we tend to relate to digital technology as a pre-existing condition of the universe. We think of our technologies in terms of the applications they offer right out of the box instead of how we might change them or even write new ones. We are content to learn what our computers already do instead of what we can make them do.
More at Reality Sandwich...

TV LogoMania!

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This particularly hideous website is nonetheless a gold mine for designers and old TV heads, claiming to have every television logo ever made. Scrolling through is at once an education in the evolution of screen logo design, a non-linear tour through television history, and a strangely satisfying stimulation of visual memory circuits.

How the Left Hemisphere Colonized Reality


If we are to believe the latest conclusions of Tony Wright (speaking above in a National Geographic documentary) the left brain hemisphere has not simply dominated a more passive right; rather, over time, it has changed our neurochemistry and neural structures to support its own ascent. In his new book, Left in the Dark, Wright argues that "humanity is suffering from species-wide brain damage" and this damage is the "root cause of our obvious insanity."
According to current thinking cerebral dominance is the product of adaptive selection and has resulted in one side of our brain (the left) acquiring specialist abilities such as speech and rational or conceptual thinking. With these 'advanced' skills the left hemisphere has come to dominate our thinking, behaviour and psychology. In effect our mind and sense of self or who we think we are is primarily a product of the left side of our brain. Of course the conclusion that our left hemisphere has specialised and advanced abilities is, by definition, a conclusion reached by our left hemisphere! Lets suppose just for a minute that our left hemisphere is a hormonally retarded, structurally damaged, perceptually limited and psychologically deluded version of our right hemisphere and its rise to dominance was driven by fear and the need to maintain a sense of control due to its increasing damage. In effect cerebral dominance is a symptom of a neurodegenerative condition rather than an advanced adaptive trait.
On the one hand, this feels a bit like a rehashing of decades-old complaints about left-brain, dominator culture memes wiping out the goddess herself. But at least these are grounded in accepted science. If anything, it's a left-brain-argued case against the left brain.

Write or Be Written

Remember the recently degraded Texas textbook standards? The ones requiring the removal of left-leaning historical figures like Thurgood Marshall, while inserting important institutions such as the Heritage Foundation, the National Rifle Association. Or that America be referred to as a "republic" rather than a "democracy" - lest kids learn to like the word democrat? Well, Thomas Gokey of Syracuse University wants to fight back against this top-down dismantling of education with some bottom-up restoration of the historical record. He's organizing a wikibook called A Supplement to the Texas U.S. History Textbook in the hope of developing "a textbook written from a different perspective" (like, what really happened, without blacks and Jews and lefties removed). From our email exchange:
It is meant to be used in the classroom and written by people all over the world, including Texas middle and high school students themselves. An 11th grade social studies class in Ohio is already writing their own textbook, and I think this is a great way to avoid be written out of history. I think that our wiki textbook can be more faithful and be a better read and be a much better educational tool because it involves the students themselves in the messy task of historical research. If students can create their own textbook and in the process enter into debates in real time with historians and amateur history buffs it will demystify the process of historical research. I want to get students to really confront critically the way a history gets produced. How exactly do historical facts and cultural values entangle themselves in the production of history? Instead of writing term papers I would like to see teachers have their students research a particular historical event and write an article for inclusion in the textbook.

Life Inc Becomes NBC Today Show Series

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Life Inc is being made into a series for the NBC Today show called Life Inc: The Economy and You. Unfortunately for me, it's not based on my book Life Inc, about the rise of corporatism and the way corporate logic replaces human and community values, but on their own idea for a series on the rise of corporatism and the way people can learn to play the game, too. (Thus, the banner ads for sponsor and personal finance guru Suze Ormond). Oh well. Serves me right for employing such a standard (and overused) construction for the title of a book. Luckily for me, however, the Life Inc. series will still be running for the January 1, 2011 paperback release of Life Inc: How corporatism conquered the world and how to take it back - which has been expanded by a third to include a resource guide on how to take back our world. In there, I've got essays from people and organizations who are modeling some great post-corporate strategies for creating and exchanging value. They include Freecycle, LocalHarvest, Streetsblog, CableCar Cinema of Providence, Kiva, Metacurrency, Four Corners Exchange, a babysitting co-op, a biodiesel collective, and more. With any luck, a few people looking for a get-rich scheme will buy my book by mistake, and get a some good ideas for getting rich slowly and sustainably, instead.

The Fridge Campaign

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Capitalizing on the bad vibes circulating on release of Facebook-bashing The Social Network social networking competitor The Fridge has come up with a poster campaign based on those of the Hollywood pic. While The Fridge's claim of a totally private network is limited, of course, by the discretion of any particular group's membership, they certainly know how to enjoy a media moment.

A MaybeLogic Academy Course

academylogohtml.jpeg Robert Anton Wilson and his crew set up an online academy for him to teach James Joyce and other subjects to those of us who thrived off his learning and insights. Before he died, he began to invite others to teach courses through the Maybe Logic Academy, and the site has lived on. I was honored to be asked to teach a course based on my new book. It goes for ten weeks, and begins October 11. I'll be donating my proceeds to archive.org. Here's the pitch.
Ten weeks of study and dialogue, ten commands for a digital age. We continue to accept new technologies into our lives with little or no understanding of how these devices work and work on us. We do not know how to program our computers, nor do we care. We spend much more time and energy trying to figure out how to use them to program one another, instead. And this is a potentially grave mistake. Just as the invention of text utterly transformed human society, disconnecting us from much of what we held sacred, our migration to the digital realm will also require a new template for maintaining our humanity. In this course, Rushkoff shares the biases of digital media, and what that means for how we should use them. The course will be organized along the ten main biases of digital media - time, distance, scale, choice, complexity, identity, social, fact, sharing, and purpose - exploring how digital media is tilted towards one or the other end of each spectrum. We will then discuss how to maintain agency in the face of each of these biases.

A Free Comic, Courtesy Dan Goldman and Tor Books

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Dan Goldman, who hit the comics scene running with a debut graphic novel hit Shooting Wars, has blossomed into one of the industry's most innovative artists and self-publishers. Somehow, he got Tor Books to pay him for the work, and then release the entirety of his new graphic novel, Red Light Properties, on their website for free to all. If this is where publishing is going, count me in. It's a fine and fun connected series of horror stories that utilize both traditional panels and 3D architectural rendering. While the interface might still benefit from some additional iterations, it does put control over the timing of the reading experience in the user's hands - something print comics do naturally, but digital ones have been slow to recreate or improve upon. Relocated from New York to Brazil where he wrote and drew this series, Goldman has also had the time and headspace to work out a narrative that functions on more than a few levels at once. This book represents an emerging comics talent coming into full possession of his storytelling powers.

I'm using the framework of ghost stories set in a sunny climate and a depressed economy to speak about the membrane between the world of the living and the dead, the memories of places after we've gone, and the roots of family during difficult times. The firm's owners, Jude Tobin and his soon-to-be-ex-wife Cecilia, struggle to keep their own mortgage paid, their electricity on and their young son provided for while the remains of the real estate market smolders around them. And while the company's exorcisms rely on Jude's frequent intake of 'entheogenic substances' to enter the spirit realm to deal with the dead, it's that same hallucinogen intake that's pushing him further away from his marriage, his kid, society at large... and the world of the living.

Grant Morrison on the Big Screen

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The best part about watching documentaries in a movie theater is who you get to see them with. Docs, especially about esoteric subjects, bring together the greatest and weirdest people - people who should know each other, anyway. I mean, remember the people you met at that Theremin documentary? Or at anything about Tesla? My guess is that the following move theater screenings of the new Grant Morrison documentary DVD, Talking with Gods, will be nights to remember. Morrison is considerably weirder than the vast majority of his comics readers probably know - and yes, even weirder than most of the minority know. And filmmaker Patrick Meaney (who interviewed me for the film, too) has just the temperament to engage with a multi-dimensional entity like Morrison.

TALKING WITH GODS examines Morrison's 30-year career and the real-life events that inspired his stories. Featuring extensive interviews with Morrison himself, the film delves into his early days growing up in Scotland, the start of his career in comics, the crazy years of the '90s as his life and his comics became enmeshed, and his recent attempts to turn social darkness and personal troubles into compelling comics. The film also gives insight into his creative process, including a look into his vaunted idea notebooks. Complementing Morrison's own words are interviews with many of his collaborators and colleagues, including Frank Quitely, Warren Ellis, Geoff Johns, Phil Jimenez, Mark Waid, Cameron Stewart, Douglas Rushkoff, Frazer Irving, Jill Thompson, Dan DiDio, and more.
Morrison is a storyteller, chaos magician, and kung fu practitioner - but most of all he is a True Believer. As a true unbeliever, I don't get along with most true believers. But Grant is an exception, and when the things a true believer is believing in involve machine elves and Superman, I find it easier to accept the possibility of their existence. If anyone is having conversations with the gods, I'd think Morrison is one of the few who could emerge from the encounter still able to say what happened. Or to speak at all. Oh - the screenings: San Francisco - October 8th through October 13th at the Roxie NYC - October 9th at Cinema Village (scroll down) with Director / Producer Q&A Philadelphia - October 15th at the Johnsville Centrifuge with Director / Producer Q&A Boston - October 17th at the Magic Room with Director / Producer Q&A LA - October 21st at Meltdown Comics with Director / Producer / Special Guest Q&A

Al Jaffee Biography and Art Exhibition

Jaffee.p28.EXCLUSIVE.png The new biography, Al Jaffee's Mad Life by Mary Lou Weisman has just been released by HarperCollins. The book is embedded with new art by Jaffee himself, turning the whole thing into something like a pictorial, annotated graphic novel. Above, a Boing Boing exclusive preview of a page of art from the book. Jaffee, 89, is best known for his fold-ins for Mad Magazine and his ongoing series of "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions." The book chronicles one of the most compellingly bizarre and burdensome childhood's imaginable in a shtetl in Lithuania - which probably explains the brilliance of his escapism as well as the sense of alienation embedded in his cultural satire. (Whatever doesn't kill us makes us more delightfully mutant. Also opening this month, Is This the Al Jaffee Art Exhibit? October 5th, 2010 - January 30th, 2011at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. Or catch him live at New York Comiccon on Saturday October 9 at 4:15.

NimbleStrong: the iPhone bartending-manga game

3.png My daughter's first video game obsession? Nimblestrong, an iPhone game that teaches you how to bartend as you select, drag, and time your pours of various drink recipes into appropriate glasses - complete with garnish. All the while, you are encountering strange and exotic patrons as you train to become a hero master bartender. It's actually one of the better examples of a video game being used to teach a specific skill that I've come across, with a good balance between twitch, recall, and narrative. There's just something deeply compelling - and rewarding - about successfully completing a complex drink and getting high scores from that anime vixen who thought you would screw it up. The best part is the sound effects, and the particularly retro vidgame score. That, and the fact that my five-year-old now knows how to make 57 drinks.

Program or Be Programmed: The Video Short

Astra Taylor and Laura Hanna, the filmmakers behind the fabulous documentary Zizek! have just released a short promotional video that shares the core concepts of my new book Program or Be Programmed. It was a strange and wonderful experience to be poked and prodded for a couple of weeks as they distilled and then re-distilled what I was saying down to increasingly essential - and visualizable - points. And most gratifying, they did it as a labor of love to promote the ideas - which is about the best complement an author can get.

Marc Canter's Digital City

Marc Canter - the guy who brought us Macromedia and the first multimedia authoring tools wants to help post-industrial cities like his own Cleveland re-employ its citizens in a new economy. Unlike me, however, instead of building business from the ground up, Canter believes that the corporate-employee relationship can be salvaged and revitalized. His answer, Digital City Mechanics, is dedicated to re-educating workers in basic net skills while re-educating companies in hiring and organization. Given that the former rust belt is now the polymer belt (cellulose water bottles, anyone?) he may just be onto something. If nothing else, I have learned from experience: do not underestimate this man. The above video was shot on an iPhone at the Open Video Conference, where Marc was hoping to help figure out how to fill in the gaps for open standards in web video production and distribution.

Transmedia: The Future of

Collapsus Introduction from SubmarineChannel on Vimeo.

I just met Tommy Pollatta at the Open Video Conference in NY. He's the producer of Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, and now the producer and filmmaker behind a "transmedia" project called Collapsus. (See this BB post on Transmedia.) Not only is Tommy about the sweetest guy you'd ever want to meet, but he's also developing some great tools and content dedicated to informing and engaging people about major issues through entertainment. His new form, what he's calling 'transmedia,' is basically documentary mixed with narrative branching off into video games and social networking. If Mafia Wars had been invented for good instead of, well, I'm-not-sure-what, it may have been able to leverage some of what Lammotta is hoping to put into the service of peak oil and energy policy. I'm not sure the above trailer does the experience justice, so please do check out the actual project, too, at coollapsus.com.

Why Johnny Can't Program

I just published this on Huffington Post. Maybe some policymakers will consider adding programming to the US public school curriculum....
Just last year, while researching a book on America's digital illiteracy, I met with the Air Force General then in charge of America's cybercommand. He said he had plenty of new recruits ready and able to operate drones or other virtual fighting machines - but no one capable of programming them, or even interested in learning how. He wasn't even getting recruits who were ready to begin basic programming classes. Meanwhile, he explained to me, colleges in Russia, China, and even Iran were churning out an order of magnitude more programmers than universities in the US. It is only a matter of time, he said - a generation at most - until our military loses its digital superiority.
more...

Howlingly Cute

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One of my favorite musicians and artists, Archer Prewitt, best known for the comic Sof'Boy and band Sea and Cake has just finished the latest figurine in his series for PressPop, the Allen Ginsberg doll - authorized by Ginsberg Estate. Complete with glasses, book, and beaded necklace, he should make a fine addition to anyone's collection of beat poet dolls.

The doll comes with a CD of some of Ginsberg's previously unreleased live poetry readings, including Manhattan Mayday Midnight and On William Burroughs' Work.

Richard Metzger's Dangerous Minds

Douglas Rushkoff: Program or Be Programmed from DANGEROUS MINDS on Vimeo.

Richard Metzger has always been my favorite net television maker. From his show Infinity Factory on Pseudo Networks to Disinformation on the web, Channel Four, and in real life, Metzger has penetrated the weird, bringing coherence to the esoteric. He is the thinking man's Art Bell, or the sane world's Aleister Crowley. His new web television project, Dangerous Minds, has already featured William Gibson, Mark Frauenfelder, Kim Fowley, and now - Douglas Rushkoff, via skype, trying to talk about my book from my basement office while trying to listen in case my daughter calls me from upstairs. So please don't judge this show by my own appearance.

Why I Left My Publisher in Order to Publish a Book

I'm publishing a lot of essays this week, but enjoy the conversations here more than out on the regular net. So I'll link to them when I think they're appropriate for the Boing Boing community as well.

This one, for Arthurmag, explains why - for my own current book, anyway - independent publishing may be a much better path than going through the traditional corporate route. Unlike Seth Godin, I'm not in a position to say "I've decided not to publish any more books in the traditional way. 12 for 12 and I'm done." There are reasons to go the long route, including getting an advance, getting distribution, and getting the weight of an imprint when soliciting reviews and coverage. But being able to make such definitive statements is part of what makes Seth Godin, Seth Godin.

For me, it had a whole lot to do with my impatience waiting for a book to move through the traditional, 1 1/2-year release cycle, as well as wanting to sell a book for less money. It seemed to me that if people are willing to click somewhere other than Amazon or BN for a book, then we'd be able use the web in something much closer to a p2p fashion.

There's even some good news in the failure of so much of traditional publishing: the discarded talent is still here to help us write better books, and is developing some new models for getting them out:

Meanwhile, the better editors and publicists--the ones who understand their jobs differently than the corporate publishing model now dictates--are the first to be let go when budgets are cut. Working with an author on a book takes valuable time away from the acquisition of more titles. Working a whole afternoon to get a young novelist on NPR for an hour means a lot less to the executives and their balance sheets than getting a defamed movie star two minutes with Katie Couric.

Luckily for writers, however, the editors, marketers, and publicists booted from the corporate publishing industry are starting up little companies of their own. The corporate book industry can't grow at the rate required by publicly held companies, anyway. This is why it is failing. Publishing is a sustainable business, not a growth industry. So it needs to be run by people looking for sustainable projects and careers--not runaway profits.

more...

Bernard Lietaer's Site Launched


And speaking of alternative currencies, Bernard Lietaer -- the man who introduced a great many of us to the inequities inherent to a monopoly currency system and the great possibilities for complementary alternatives - has finally launched a comprehensive website about his work. Above, the TEDX Berlin talk, currently on his front page.

This is a great one-stop shop for a total mind-shift on how money works and how it could.

They Live, Again

they-live-200x300.gif Softskull Press is launching a new series of books called Deep Focus, dedicated to taking some of today's wittiest writers and setting them loose on the cult film classics of the 70's and 80's.

So far, I've had the pleasure of reading galleys for the first two, Jonathan Lethem's deconstruction of John Carpenter's They Live, and Chris Sorrentino's homage to Death Wish. These are fun little books - little, meaning a hundred or so pages and in a tiny fits-in-your-back-pocket format suitable for reading anywhere at anytime. And they justify all the nights spent watching reruns of these films, never sure if we were allowed to like them as much as we do - even after we see through to their obvious faults. This book series considers such films "deliberate" B-movies.

I read Lethem's time-coded analysis of They Live on an airplane while I watched the film on my phone, for the perfect DIY mini-Criterion experience. Lethem is one of my favorite writers anyway, but experiencing him wax on about Nada and the ghouls was perhaps the highlight of my summer reading. Here he is on Shephard Fairey's original OBEY campaign, which began as a reaction to the "obey" signs revealed beneath ordinary advertisements when characters in the film wore "Hoffman glasses":

Fairey's interventions occupy the same uneasy middle ground as They Live itself: on the one hand, the termite arts of graffiti or of the deliberate B-Movie, marginal activities carrying a subversive potential past the sentries of high art. On the other, the gallery-ready postures of text-artists like Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer, or of the Cahiers table of "conscious" auteurs - Hitchcock being the supreme example - at which Carpenter may occasionally be granted a shakey seat. Too poisted and context-aware to be claimed as primitives, too crass and populist to be comfortably claimed for the high-art pantheon, Fairey and Carpenter both oscillate dismayingly in the void between.

Or, a bit later...

Kruger and Holzer's non-sequitor interventions briefly attained a gallant purity, but they'd always needed the gallery or museum context as a quarantine against recontamination. Their work degenerated anyway, refamiliarizing into po-mo moral rhetoric or reappropriated for fashion layouts. What makes Shepard Fairey's populist gesture insipid is is how self-evidently it awaited a product retrofit, a proceed-to-checkout button. When the OBEY t-shirt or CHANGE political campaign rolled out, no one, least of all the 'artworks' themselves, even hiccuped.

Mix Tape for Good Heads

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While mix tapes may no longer involve chromium dioxide passing over magnetic heads, there are still many heads who appreciate the music streams of others, and find them particularly useful when engaged in plant shamanics.

To this end, mixtape enthusiast and Arthur editor Jay Babcock has teamed up with recording engineer Bobby Tamkin to bring us Blackout, a fundraiser mix for the magazine with a "pay what thou wilt" link.

The tracks:
1. MOON DUO "Into the Trees" (from the Escape LP on Woodsist)
2. WHITE HILLS "Three Quarters" (from the White Hills LP on Thrill Jockey)
3. WHITE NOISE SOUND "Sunset" (from the White Noise Sound LP on Alive Naturalsound)
4. LORDS OF FALCONRY "Osiron" (from Lords of Falconry on Holy Mountain)
5. ENDLESS BOOGIE "Pack Your Bags" (from the Full House Head LP on No Quarter)
6. MASTERS OF REALITY "Johnny's Dream" (from the Pine/Cross'd Over LP)
7. MESSAGES "Tambura" (from the After Before LP on De Stijl)
8. ENUMCLAW "Harmonic Convergence" (from the Opening of the Dawn LP)

All available for preview at Arthurmag.

An Alt Currency that even the IRS Could Love

How superfluid works from Nathan Solomon on Vimeo.


I've been researching alternative currency systems for the past decade or so, ever since I became convinced that a 21st Century economy simply can't be run on a 13th Century printing-press-era operating system. As most of us know, the centralized currency we use today is a legacy of the early Renaissance, when kings, threatened by the rise of a merchant middle class, made all peer-to-peer and local currencies illegal. Debt-based currencies helped monarchs centralize their power and the worth of their treasuries. And these currency systems worked particularly well as colonial empires expanded via their chartered corporations.

Nowadays, however, most of us have more value we wish to transact than there is cash out there to do it. (I personally blame the derivatives markets, which now are more predictive than derivative - their bets being placed before the so-called "real" markets have a chance to operate.) But whatever the cause, there are plenty of real people willing to work and exchange value; there's just not enough money available to do it.

I've been looking hard at many of the systems out there, from exchanges like LETS and TimeDollars to reputational currencies like Whuffie. The main obstacle - usually unacknowledged, but mostly just ignored - is the tax. And I think that's what sets Superfluid apart from the rest. They've got two sides - a "community" portal for people to do favors for one another in the way a LETS system might allow. And they've also got a commerce portal through which people can begin to sell merchandise or commercial services.

What makes Superfluid interesting for the Boing Boing community, I believe, is that its philosophy and methodology - as described in the video above - is so consonant with that of the programming community. It makes sense to me that a technology based in shared computing resources would be great for administrating the sharing of programming skills. And it also seems to me that the programming community is the more likely birthplace for a robust and legal p2p currency than the kinds of communities that have attempted to scale up their currencies in the past.

See what you think. I'll try to get the founders of Superfluid here to engage in the comments if people are interested.

Fabrickit: DIY wearable computing

1_fabrickitfront.jpeg

This just got released at Maker Faire NYC on Sunday: a starter kit for making your own wearable computing, from a new company called Fabrick.it. The kit is broken down into modules or "bricks" for everything from light-up LED's to rechargeable batteries, all linked together with attractive sewable, washable, and solderable conductive silver ribbon.

Perhaps more valuable than the components themselves will be the instructions and tutorials for putting things together, and the community that should develop around DIY wearable technologies.

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)

Where Everybody Knows Your Game


BabyCastles, the videoarcade in Ridgewood, Queens, is quickly turning into a hub for intersection of the art, technology, and culture of independent gaming. It's a place where you can sample the latest in indie videogames, like the Hungarian physics Sumotori Dreams above, or experience fully curated exhibitions - all in an atmosphere more like a hacker's coffee bar than a museum or a commercial arcade. Everybody is on the inside.

Founded by two graduates of NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program, Syed Saluhuddin and Kunal Gupta, BabyCastle is basically just a wall of the music venue Silent Barn right now, featuring six video arcade cabinets with rotating content. But the extended BabyCastles collective is growing - and has launched a Kickstarter campaign for a pop-up video game, art, and music venue on 42nd Street in Manhattan, along with partnering organization Showpaper.org. Their purpose, in addition to having fun, is to change common perception of the art and culture of video games.

Yes, there is life after Gamestop.

Rushkoff on writing for a new alternate reality game

Douglas Rushkoff is the author of Life Inc., Coercion, the graphic novel Testament, and many other books.

I’ve written and even taught a whole lot about interactive narrative over the years, but rarely have the chance to play with this stuff.

Read the rest