Programme or be Programmed

Box of Punch cards containing several computer...

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There are a variety of interesting things to read related to Douglas Rushkoff‘s new book, Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age.

Here, for example, Rushkoff writes tangenitally about the publishing business and why he has chosen to publish his new book directly through an independent publisher. It makes a lot of sense: as he argues, you can still make a living publishing books, but you can’t make huge profits, which is the only thing that interests large corporations. In other words, publishing as a corporate enterprise is on the way out, and writers need to face up to this fast. Snip:

Moreover, producing less than a dozen titles a year, the independent publisher can focus fully on each one. I get to work with a friend, and in a way that puts the ideas of the book before the fleeting priorities of the marketing department. The whole process scaled to the human beings actually producing and consuming the content, instead of the corporations extracting value from our interactions.

The downside, of course, is that there’s no books in stores, no listings on Amazon or, and no reviews from those who view independently published books as unworthy of critical attention. (Don’t blame them—they’re having a hard enough time keeping a column or two of the newspaper devoted to books at this point, anyway.) Luckily, most real readers aren’t fixated on which corporation has backed which book project.

Meanwhile, over on the Huffington Post, Rushkoff writes more directly about the theme of his book, and how tragic and disappointing it is most young people seem hardly aware that they are living in the Matrix. Unconcerned about giving away your private data to Facebook because you think Facebook’s main purpose is to help you communicate with your friends, uninterested in learning how to write programming code because it seems too hard, and yet unable to even negotiate a print dialogue because the state of ICT education is so shockingly bad in this country (and the USA). Snip:

I’ve been a computer enthusiast since the late 70’s, and I still do believe that this is the moment we have been waiting for. We are gaining the ability to consciously participate in our evolution as a species. We are networking ourselves together into something perhaps greater than the sum of our many parts. But we must not relinquish our participation in this project, entrusting our future to the few who learn to program or the companies paying them to do so.

It never ceases to amaze me that many of my students are hapless at setting up pages and need help negotiating print settings; or that they think Powerpoint defaults are adequate; or that Comic Sans is “cute”, for that matter.

I wish I’d learned to programme when I was at school. The opportunity was there, but I did something stupid like Latin instead