Saturday, December 24, 2005

Rushkoffiana

Now is an exciting time to be a fan of the maverick media theorist Douglas Rushkoff.

He's known for analyzing media and the power of storytelling therein, and has dealt both with how viewers can become empowered by "taking control of the story" and the shadier side of how advertising and other manipulative forms of media control the audience (and has analyzed the potential for new media forms to lead to both cases). Also, he's known for dealing with Judaism from an unconventional, counter-institutional perspective as an "open source religion", such as in his book Nothing Sacred: The Truth about Judaism and articles like "Judging Judaism by the Numbers" and a New York Press article on the "self-imposed death of institutional Judaism". Freethinking lapsed Jews turn out to be like Paikea in Whale Rider, who was the black sheep of her Maori tribe for flouting the convention of male leadership, only to turn out to be the true heir to the tradition underneath the superficial differences and rituals.

Appropriately his message has straddled mediums: nonfiction and the farthest-out fantasy fiction; books, comix, newspaper and magazine columns, and TV documentaries. He also doesn't hesitate to combine these topics in unexpected ways, such as a book chapter titled "From Moses to Modems".

Two major Rushkoff projects have been released this month: his business book Get Back in the Box ("I think it will succeed in doing for business and organizations a lot of what it was I trying to do for Judaism: showing that a renaissance, open-source mindset leads to great innovation.") and the first issue of the ongoing comic series Testament. He's said:
...the two main projects I do have coming out right now - Get Back in the Box and Testament - represent the culmination of the last two decades of inquiry and experimentation. So these projects aren't over just because they're about to be published.
Before the book was released, he released for discussion some provocative passages from Box onto his blog as "Thought Viruses":
  1. One Thing
  2. Open Source and the Authorship Society
  3. Social Currency
  4. Follow the Fun
  5. The Ben & Jerry's Syndrome
  6. Brand as Communication
  7. It's Supposed to be Fun
Also, he has an ongoing column in Arthur magazine. See the outstanding first installment Evolution as a Team Sport for a taste: it looks to renaissance as a better metaphor for change than revolution, and the analysis of the role of centralized currency and the resultant central banking is remniscent of William B. Greene's and Proudhon's theories of mutual banking:
...it was during the Renaissance that centralized currency came into widespread use. Before then, localities developed their own currencies, often based on real commodities, and many of which existed side-by-side more centralized currencies that were used for transacting with other regions. With the establishment of the nation state came the exclusive right of kings to create money by "fiat" - literally by invention - and then force everyone else to compete to pay it back. To this day, people who want to buy a house must borrow, say, $100,000 from the bank and then pay back $300,000 over thirty years. Where does the other $200,000 come from? The borrower is to compete for it in the marketplace. Only $100,000 was loaned into existence. The rest must be taken from others.
There's also an archive of columns for The Feature (which ended earlier this year) for even more stuff to dig through (I'm telling you, keeping up on Rushkoffiana is almost a full time commitment itself).

His short book Open Source Democracy: How Online Communication is Changing Offline Politics is available online as a free ebook. Also available for viewing online are his documentaries on advertising and manipulation, The Merchants of Cool and The Persuaders.

Rushkoff appeared on Sunday, December 25 on the WBAI radio show Equal Time for Freethought, as part of a subversive winter holiday special from the secular humanist viewpoint (Rushkoff covered Hanukkah, whereas Robert Price did Christmas). The show is available as a MP3 in the WBAI archives.

(last updated December 29, 2005)

1 comment:

vjb2 said...

Doug has been my hero for over a decade now. I don't think I'd be the person I am today if not for his influence. And he's a genuinely wonderful human being on top of it all, one which I'm proud to call my friend.