I'll be interviewing Douglas Rushkoff in IRC in 90 minutes if you'd like follow along and ask questions of your own.
We'll post a transcript later. Transcript after the jump! [Details]
— joelev sets mode +m #boingboing
— joelev gives voice to rushkoff_
[joelev] This is where I get my James Lipton voice going.
[joelev] Doug, thanks for coming!
[joelev] I've moderated the channel so it's just you and me talking, but for most the talk I hope to be passing on questions from everyone else. (Hint!)
[rushkoff] can they talk in "rows" like the old AOL days?
[rushkoff] the metaphors of bygone years.
[joelev] I have no idea what that is, so I'm guessing no :)
[joelev] So where are you living now? Did you actually leave Park Slope?
[rushkoff] they used to divide the "audience" into arbitrary rows
[rushkoff] I'm up the Hudson in an undisclosed location.
[rushkoff] Yeah, we left Brooklyn. It was more of a stopover, all told, from the East Village to up here.
[joelev] Do you feel like that was a good decision? (I'm curious primarily because I live in the Slope.)
[rushkoff] It ended up just too expensive.
[rushkoff] If we owned some townhouse or apartment, we might have tried ot stay.
[rushkoff] But we were in a 2.5 bedroom apartment, and they were upping the rent to…get this …4500.
[rushkoff] per month.
[rushkoff] And the more we looked around for something else, the worse it seemed.
[joelev] My kind of town!
[rushkoff] Plus, I couldn't seem to go anywhere without getting blogged about.
[joelev] I'm blogging this right now
[rushkoff] There were just too many internet writers per square foot.
[rushkoff] If I were William Burroughs or something, it might have made sense.
[joelev] Okay, I'll try not to tail off into navel gazing New York real estate talk for everyone else, but I had to ask :)
[rushkoff] But when I showed up at a Tot Shabbat and someone then blogged about my attitude there, it was really too much.
[rushkoff] Didn't make me move, but made me glad I was about to.
[joelev] Really? That's icky.
[rushkoff] It is.
[rushkoff] Plus, they decided to stop doing tot shabbat during the summer.
[joelev] And ruins my next question: what *were* you so mad about that day?
[rushkoff] Too many people went to their places in East Hampton to keep it going.
[rushkoff] So I got out my old guitar and started doing it myself.
[rushkoff] Which was fun, until *that* got blogged.
[rushkoff] Really, it's a great part of town in its way – don't get me wrong.
[rushkoff] I just imagine it was better when it was more affordable.
[rushkoff] Same reason I left the West Village, and then the East Village.
[rushkoff] I realized I'd have to start deciding what kind of work I took based on what would pay the rent (or mortgage).
[rushkoff] And that was a deal I was unwilling to make.
[joelev] So waht are you working on now? I know about the forum.
[rushkoff] It was one thing being single in Manhattan.
[rushkoff] it's another when you're doing a whole family.
[joelev] (for those who missed it)
[rushkoff] Yeah – I'm working on a book tentatively called Corporatized.
[rushkoff] It's looking, primarily, at the way people have internalized corporatist values.
[rushkoff] I'm going back to the renaissance –
[rushkoff] the invention of chartered corporations,
[joelev] So this is about more than just American capitalist idealism?
[rushkoff] modern centralized currency,
[joelev] Which is right in line with the main theme of "Testament," your last comic series
[rushkoff] the kinds of institutions created to promote central authority at the expense of commmunity, local authority, individual agency
[rushkoff] I go through the industrial age, how things were automated against labor
[rushkoff] then the advertising era, how laborers were transformed into consumers,
[rushkoff] and then the last stage, as consumers were transformed into shareholders.
[rushkoff] Yeah, it dovetails on the comic book –
[rushkoff] but also on the novel Bull,
[rushkoff] the non-fiction book Coercion,
[rushkoff] and even the early stuff like Cyberia, which looked at the promise of the cyberpunk ethic.
[joelev] META: Backchatter channel created at ##boingboing
[rushkoff] DIY has been systematically removed from our options
[rushkoff] can I look at that at the same time, too?
[joelev] You can, provided you're using a client that supports multiple channels. (Colloquy does.)
[rushkoff] I did it.
[rushkoff] detach window
[rushkoff] I was inspired early on by BB, mondo, everything cyber, as well as FRPs, hypertext
[joelev] What are you seeing as the most immediate threats from corporatism?
[rushkoff] the whole DIY culture and possibility for value creation (and reality creation) from the bottom up
[rushkoff] But then I saw how easily these things became corporatized, and got a little less optimistic.
[rushkoff] The immediate threat is to our ability to conceive.
[rushkoff] We tend to think of things only being real once they've passed through some central authority.
[rushkoff] They have to be processed by a corporation, paid for in centralized currency, or recognized by mainstream media.
[rushkoff] It's an ego thing, to some extent.
[rushkoff] We don't feel it's real if it isn't recognized.
[rushkoff] So the most immediate threat is to consciousness – sorry to be "spiritual," if it sounds like that.
[joelev] I think you'd allowed :)
[rushkoff] Knitting counts, for sure. The whole craft thing.
[rushkoff] Make magazine, the return to objects.
[rushkoff] (from the sidechat)
[rushkoff] And this stuff is a threat.
[rushkoff] Remember that Amazon ad a while back?
[rushkoff] The one that showed a grandma knitting stuff for people's xmas presents?
[rushkoff] And everyone was gonna hate the stuff.
[rushkoff] She was supposed to just buy things on Amazon like everyone else.
[rushkoff] Cause who wants a homemade present?
[rushkoff] That was so anti-WholeEarthReview
[rushkoff] the other immediate threat is the money thing
[rushkoff] Our financial system outlaws (essentially) the creation of true alternative currencies.
[rushkoff] They're not quite cracking down on this stuff yet. (except when Ron Paul tried it)
[rushkoff] But the possibility of alternative currencies shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.
[joelev] That was something that clicked for me reading Testament. I'd always sort of presumed a financial monoculture was a good thing.
[rushkoff] They don't have to replace the main currency, but can work in a complementary fashion.
[rushkoff] Allowing local regions to create value, rather than being at the mercy of speculative currency markets.
[rushkoff] Barter works, too.
[rushkoff] But it has to be a direct back-and-forth.
[rushkoff] If you can earn currency into existence – like through a babysitting club –
[rushkoff] you end up with communities of trust rather than just two-person relationships.
[rushkoff] It can be a bit more complex.
[rushkoff] doesn't just have to be gold.
[rushkoff] Well, we all like monocultures of one kind or another (back to your question).
[rushkoff] I mean, the invention of monotheism was meant to create a universal god system.
[rushkoff] It was specifically designed to break people of local religions and gods.
[rushkoff] And, as a Jew, I've generally seen this as a good thing.
[rushkoff] Break superstition and make god more abstract – to the point of irrelevancy.
[rushkoff] But I played against this a bit in Testament –
[rushkoff] showing some of the dangers of monotheism,
[rushkoff] the problems with over-abstraction and universality.
[rushkoff] Especially when they're applied to so-called Open Markets.
[rushkoff] to the side chat:
[rushkoff] Fiat money is a great thing.
[rushkoff] And offers terrific flexibility.
[rushkoff] But it's biased in a particular direction.
[rushkoff] Centralized currencies were developed by monarchs looking to maintain power.
[rushkoff] Once a currency is dependent on the king for legitimacy…
[rushkoff] everyone is dependent on the king for the value of their cash.
[rushkoff] But if you can pay a mechanic for his labor in local currency, and his parts in centralized currency…
[rushkoff] you end up with a more workable system that supports both the corps providing the stuff, and the laborers with whom you actually live.
[joelev] LSK asks: Do you believe that atheism solves some problems that monotheism presents? (And I would follow: is there an analog to atheism with regard to currency or markets?)
[rushkoff] Tricky, but fun question.
[joelev] We'll have no fun here!
[rushkoff] Atheism would solve a lot of problems – particularly an evolved atheism rather than a reactionary one.
[rushkoff] When you push through, you get to the same demand for ethical conduct.
[rushkoff] If there's an analog to currency, it's whether or not you can use currencies without "faith" involved.
[rushkoff] And I'd argue yes –
[rushkoff] it's not a matter of having faith in the currency (a false god if ever there was one) but having trust in the people who are creating it with you.
[rushkoff] Local currencies are different, in that people in a community are interdependent on one another as more than customers.
[rushkoff] I make your bread, and you mix my drugs.
[rushkoff] If you screw up my drugs, I'm dead.
[rushkoff] If I screw up your bread, you are more likely to be sick and screw up my drugs.
[rushkoff] So I need you to be a good druggist as well as a good customer.
[rushkoff] The fact that our current currencies are more about the speculator than those of us actually using the currency is not a good thing.
[joelev] See: Bear Stearns.
[rushkoff] yeah. and then they end up pumping more into the system. that was a funny one.
[rushkoff] Because the initial problem was that investors had too much cash.
[joelev] Markets too complex for even those running them to comprehend.
[rushkoff] They need a place to invest it – someone to lend it to.
[rushkoff] So the mortgage thing was really excess supply looking for demand.
[rushkoff] And after it falls, what do they do?
[rushkoff] Add more supply.
[rushkoff] You think any of that is going to the poor fools who got mortgages over their heads?
[joelev] Does that mean the current system is fucked beyond repair, in your opinion?
[rushkoff] the current financial system?
[joelev] Are we just riding out a long, inevitable collapse?
[rushkoff] I think the surest path towards fixing it is to support the real transactions that people need to conduct with alternative means of value transfer.
[rushkoff] It's how people in Japan got healthcare for their elders when the currency was non-functional.
[rushkoff] They earned eldercare dollars by taking care of old people where theylived
[rushkoff] And they could 'spend' the dollars on their own grandparents, out wherever they lived.
[rushkoff] the trick with decent wages (from sidebar) is this:
[rushkoff] People who are employed by big, centralized corporations are – for the most part – at odds with short-term shareholders.
[rushkoff] the whole thing is quite anonymous.
[rushkoff] I might have shares of the corporation in my retirement account that's giving you shitty wages.
[rushkoff] But I want the share value to go up so I can sell the shares at a profit and get out.
[rushkoff] and those shares do go up when they announce that they're cutting your pay or your whole job.
[rushkoff] That's the problem with today's shareholder mentality.
[joelev] Which is a symptom of share ownership now abstracted through funds, not a direct belief that a company will profit through smart long-term strategy?
[rushkoff] abstracted through funds, to some extent.
[rushkoff] But the reason Walmart commands a much higher P/E than CostCo is because "the street" respects WalMarts shittier labor policies
[rushkoff] cut the fat.
[rushkoff] Circuit City got a shares bounce this year by announcing awful cuts.
[rushkoff] It's not that shareholder people are so evil, is what I'm trying to say.
[rushkoff] OR even that management is so evil (they're just listening to their shareholders).
[joelev] No, they're acting logically within the system.
[rushkoff] It's a game that's biased towards this kind of behavior.
[rushkoff] And if we look at how this game was programmed originally.
[rushkoff] ..we get a better sense of how this came to be and how to reprogram it with longer range goals in mind.
[joelev] So what can we do to correct the system's course?
[joelev] (And yes, I just said "the system.")
[rushkoff] That's why I'm going all the way back to the renaissance, the creation of the early charters, discovering their biases, and then seeing how they're reflected in our implementation of these programs today.
[rushkoff] Especially after a century of industrial age social programming.
[rushkoff] How to correct the system?
[rushkoff] Restore some of the importance of the local.
[rushkoff] The peripheral.
[rushkoff] People need to be able to create value from the periphery.
[rushkoff] The internet provided some great models for that.
[rushkoff] But open source gets too easily shifted to crowd-sourcing.
[rushkoff] Media virus too easily got shifted to viral marketing
[joelev] The challenge seems to be preventing those small success from being subsumed by larger entities, though.
[rushkoff] How to create direct contacct between people and farmers?
[rushkoff] Community sponsored agriculture…
[rushkoff] replacement of certain market functions with social functions
[rushkoff] When we had our baby, all the things that the community used to provide were provided instead by the market.
[rushkoff] Lactation consultants, childcare….
[rushkoff] It's as if taking a favor from a friend is too dangerous.
[rushkoff] Creates all those messy obligations.
[rushkoff] People seem more ready to work with "professionals"
[joelev] I'm reminded of the woman Mark wrote about who let her 9-year-old ride the subway alone.
[rushkoff] In Park Slope they'd have taken the kid away.
[joelev] And while the Happy Mutants were all for it, many others on the net were in shock.
[rushkoff] Remember the woman who left her kid in the car when she picked up something at Home Depot?
[rushkoff] She got reamed.
[rushkoff] Hell, when I got mugged (I really shouldn't bring all this up again) I posted where it happend on the Park Slope Parents list,
[rushkoff] and then I got not one but two emails from people angry that I had mentioned the street.
[rushkoff] That it would negatively effect their property values.
[rushkoff] Talk about short-term thinking.
[rushkoff] you there?
[joelev] So to get back to something that I think about pretty much every day, what do we do about the products or service needs that are best met by large corporations over which we have little influence?
[rushkoff] buy them
[joelev] My neighbor can't build my iPod, for instance. At least not as well as Apple.
[rushkoff] sometimes, a big company can make stuff better.
[rushkoff] If you really want it, you get it.
[rushkoff] But if you really only bought the stuff from big companies that only big companies could make….
[rushkoff] you'd find you were buying most of your stuff from little ones or local ones.
[rushkoff] We electronics people are likely to have some more of that stuff.
[rushkoff] But I don't know that my shoes need to be made in china.
[rushkoff] Or my garlic.
[rushkoff] (a&P garlic comes from China, or so says the stamp on the package)
[joelev] Your Chinese garlic is probably made of shoes!
[rushkoff] seems like a convoluted supply chain.
[joelev] Folks: We have about 15 minutes left. Hit me for any last questions.
[joelev] In the meantime…
[joelev] Actually, Akamarkman has a question:
[joelev] Hi, this is akamarkman in #boingboing. Since he mentioned an earlier work (Cyberia) previously in conversation, I wanted to ask Douglas what he thought about Media Virus! as it stands in today's media landscape. Do the ideas still apply? If he were ever to revise and update, what would be the first step?
[rushkoff] It sounds like I'm somehow anti-corporate or anti-capitalist, and that's not what I mean to say, btw.
[rushkoff] Media Virus.
[rushkoff] Well, the main difference between then and now is we didn't have the web when I wrote that.
[rushkoff] So things have gotten more complex.
[rushkoff] But the most important thing I'd want to change is the prevailing notion of what "viral" is.
[rushkoff] The folks who adopted media virus and turned it into viral marketing really don't know what viral means.
[rushkoff] They think it's any form of word of mouth.
[rushkoff] And it's actually more complex than this.
[rushkoff] I'd probably explain the difference.
[rushkoff] That a media virus really has two parts –
[rushkoff] the shell and the memes.
[rushkoff] And that they spread initially because they've exploited some new permutation of media.
[rushkoff] They break a media rule.
[rushkoff] They get attention from the media because the media is obsessed with media.
[rushkoff] Then, after that,
[rushkoff] the memes only spread because they challenge cultural code.
[rushkoff] They get us talking and spreading the thing.
[rushkoff] I'd probably also attempt to frighten marketers more.
[joelev] Funke asks: What are your thoughts as you follow the presidential primary? …did you follow the campaigns of Ron Paul and/or Mike Gravel? The Paul campaign, in particular, had a very interesting following.
[rushkoff] I had no idea there was that whole marketing community out there back then.
[rushkoff] Paul was great.
[rushkoff] Not so much as a potential president
[rushkoff] but as a powerful candidate
[rushkoff] He was able to spread ideas and speak frankly and kind of fearlessly.
[rushkoff] And he introduced a different sort of libertarianism.
[rushkoff] Paul's followers sometimes bordered on the Larouchian, though.
[rushkoff] and he had some Ross Perot moments.
[joelev] Speaking of big ideas…
[joelev] Primordius Draco asks: What's his perspective on technological singularity & its ramifications for society?
[rushkoff] almost like an Alan Keyes
[rushkoff] I shy from the singularity – probably because folks like Kurzweill talk about it so much, and in a way that makes me get nauseous.
[rushkoff] I look forward to any moment that can help people remember what it means to be human.
[rushkoff] What differentiates life from simulation from technology.
[rushkoff] So while on the one hand I'm all for the post-dual cyborg that Donna Harraway talks about.
[rushkoff] On the other, I don't think of the singularity as some Colossus moment.
[rushkoff] Rather, it's a moment when the simulation or artificial intelligence becomes so compelling that we realize humanity isn't really a drive towards intelligence at all.
[joelev] What are we driving toward?
[joelev] Is that something you feel is addressed well by (some) religion?
[rushkoff] buddhists have a lot of that down
[rushkoff] but it's one thing to really get it on the pillow
[rushkoff] and another to exercise it, apply it to cultural programming rather than individual programs
[rushkoff] and yes – corporatism has definitely been looked at before –
[rushkoff] especially in fiction
[rushkoff] But I think I might be able to explain some of how we got here in non-fiction,
[rushkoff] deconstruct some familiar situations
[rushkoff] help people separate what's real from what has been imposed
[rushkoff] Yeah, I'm gonna go do some non-fiction.
[rushkoff] I think I'm better at non-fiction, ultimately.
[joelev] Well, thanks for making the time for us.
[rushkoff] It's kind of sad, cause fiction is more fun to write.
[rushkoff] Hey, thanks for having me.
[joelev] Would it be fair to say that if peopel want to talk to you about this more they should head to your discussion board?
[rushkoff] I'm a happy mutant from way way back.
[joelev] (Which is, again, at http://corporatized.net/)
[rushkoff] Yeah, I'm just starting a little Vanilla board that will get more active when I'm done wiht the book at the end of the summer.
[rushkoff] But for now it's a great way to build a community.
[rushkoff] I'm hoping to start a new kind of mutual fund afterwards.
[rushkoff] Some kind of bottom-up wiki-driven group investment cluster fuck.
[joelev] Yeah, I saw talk of that. Ethical investing would be amazing. (Or, yes, horrible!)
[rushkoff] That makes everyone money while supporting local developmenet
[joelev] Have you seen kiva.org?
[rushkoff] No. I shall go.
[rushkoff] Oh yeah.
[rushkoff] That's good stuff.
[joelev] It's a great way to put your money into local economies that you might not otherwise be able to reach. (But not really make a profit.)
[rushkoff] I'm thinking to keep it to places where investors actually live.
[rushkoff] But an international offering might be nice, too!