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MediaSquat

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Events

September 23, 2014
Technology and the Future of Being Human
Hope College Critical Issues Symposium
Holland, Michigan

September 29, 2014
Panel Discussion: Why Winning in Mobile is About Behavior, Not Technology
Advertising Week
New York, NY

October 23-24, 2014
Present Shock Economics
GAIN: AIGA Design and Business Conference
New York Marriott Marquis
New York, NY

October 26, 2014
Techno-Utopianism & the Fate of the Earth
International Forum on Globalization
Cooper Union
New York, NY

October 26, 2014
Media Literacy in the 21st Century
Queens College Homecoming 2014
LeFrak Hall
Flushing, NY

November 17, 2014
Keynote
le club b
Hamburg, Germany

 

Blog

Wednesday
Aug062014

CNN: The Russia Hack is Not About You

 

(CNN) -- Most people's first response on hearing that 1.2 billion usernames and passwords have been compromised by a group of Russian hackers? We check our own most important accounts for evidence of misuse, and change our passwords. If a week or two goes by with nothing out of the ordinary happening on our credit cards, we breathe a sigh of relief and go back to life as normal.

In short, if nothing happens to us, personally, then we really don't care.

But that's not how the Internet works. We're all in this thing together, and when the network is compromised, so too are we all.

So what lessons should we take from the news that this cyberposse has managed to break into over 420,000 websites of companies large and small?

First off, your data is not safe -- certainly not in an online universe where it's supposed to be protected by consumer-created passwords and computer-illiterate merchants. Over the years, I have been laughed off more than one panel for suggesting that we won't begin to take digital education seriously until nine Chinese teenagers break into a major Wall Street bank and create such havoc that we're forced to reset the entire economy to yesterday at noon.

So it turns out to be a dozen Russian 20-somethings in a small city near Mongolia, but the achievement was equally spectacular and should provoke an equally widespread response.

Yes, the compromised 420,000 websites belonging to companies large and small need to be reconfigured, but so does our entire approach to information and its security.

In the most immediate and practical sense, we pedestrians have to accept the fact that we are utterly incapable of protecting ourselves on the information superhighway. We don't use good passwords, we use the same ones on multiple sites, we don't change them often enough, and we store them in files and e-mails and other places where they are not secure.

The easy cure is to use a password service such as Dashlane, KeePass or LastPass to create and manage your passwords for you. You can even share passwords securely with others, revoke access, and change passwords regularly without having to remember anything but your own master key.

Likewise, those of us working in businesses simply have to learn to surrender authority of our security to those IT people who keep telling us to do stuff that we ignore. We have to respect the firewalls, scan USB sticks before we stick them in our machines or printers, and not defeat the security protocols they've established for us. They are not the enemy.

It's akin to good collective hygiene. When you don't wash your hands, that's one thing. If you work in a restaurant, it's another. Now that we're all connected digitally, we are all working in the equivalent of a virtual cafeteria, spreading whatever we happen to pick up to everyone else.

That's the vulnerability these Russian kids exploited. They collected all these usernames and passwords through a botnet installed on our computers. That weird file you opened that didn't seem to have anything in it? Or that link you clicked on and the extra window that opened in your browser? That was you installing a piece of malware on your machine -- a tiny program that turned your laptop into part of this tiny hacker group's global supercomputer. Your processor, your contact list, and your access becomes theirs. From there, they just watch and collect.

Basic digital literacy is certainly the best option against these infiltrations. But the first and most important step in that education is to realize that there are people who know how this stuff works better than we do. The scary part of living in a networked world is that we're all responsible for our mutual well-being. But the great part is that there are many people out here willing to help us rise to that challenge.

As long as we see our interests as personal and individual, we will continue to be used as a giant battering ram on the firewalls of banks and other companies on whom we are depending. They can patch and update, but their processing power pales in comparison with that of a few hundred million home computers controlled by a malicious gang.

That bounty of 1.2 billion usernames and passwords likely isn't even the prize they're after; it's merely the platform from which they're going after something else. Until we members of a networked society learn to work together, we will continue to be used by those who put us together for themselves.

Tuesday
May272014

Come Study Media and Activism with Me at CUNY/Queens

 

It's official. I'm a university professor - and at a public university where you can all come and study and work and devise the future of civilization for cheap. The official press release is below. The skinny? I've taken my first university post, as a professor of media studies at CUNY/Queens College, where I'll be helping to build a first-of-its-kind media studies program. Instead of training people to become advertisers or to write the next useless phone app (and raise VC), I'm going to support people who want to see through the media, and use it to wage attacks on the status quo. This is media studies for Occupiers. 

The undergraduate program is in full swing. The graduate program is accepting applications for Spring. You can take my graduate or undergraduate course, a la carte, beginning THIS FALL (more info below). 

This is my answer to the emails I get every week from people asking where they can study media theory and activism. Come and get it. 

 

| FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE |

Renowned digital media theorist Douglas Rushkoff joins the faculty of City University of New York’s Queens College, to help develop new master’s in media studies

Queens, NY, May 27, 2014 -- Queens College of the City University of New York announces today that Douglas Rushkoff, the famed cyberculture expert who originated concepts such as “viral media” and “social currency,” will be joining its faculty. This marks the first full-time academic role for the prolific media theorist, award-winning author, and documentarian, who is considered one of the most influential thinkers of the digital age. Starting this August, he will help lead the development of a new Master of Arts in Media Studies program that will address the technological and market forces that dominate our daily lives.  

Rushkoff, who holds a PhD in New Media and Digital Culture, is the author of over a dozen best-selling books, the winner of the first Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity, and creator of four award-winning PBS “Frontline” documentaries on the cultural and societal impact of media and the media industry. A regular commentator for CNN, “CBS Sunday Morning,” and NPR, he has shaped current thinking on topics such as corporatism, “digital natives” (another Rushkoff coinage), and distributed solutions to social problems – from Occupy to Bitcoin. His latest book, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (2013) – described as “invaluable” by the New York Times – introduced the concept of the always-on “digital present-ism.” His recent PBS documentary Generation Like (2014) explored the influence of social media on youth culture.

Rushkoff’s move to academia reflects his interest in social justice and the need to build media literacy in the rapidly evolving global media environment. “This is a rally for consciousness,” says Rushkoff. “The essential skill in a digital age is to understand the biases of the landscape – to be able to think critically and act purposefully with these tools – lest the tools and companies behind them use us instead.”

“I wish to foster a deeper awareness and more purposeful implementation of media, and this can be best accomplished at a mission-driven public institution such as Queens College,” says Rushkoff, a native of Queens who was inspired to join the school because of its rich legacy of social dialogue and engagement. “I want to teach a diverse range of students without putting them into lifelong debt. Besides, where better to work on media in the people’s interest than a public university?” 

“The college, with its unique community of students, creative artists, and scholars, has a tradition of cultivating a learning environment supportive of critical thinking and social consciousness,” adds Media Studies Chair and Professor Richard Maxwell. “Rushkoff’s contributions to current thinking in technology, media, and society are at the forefront of the evolving study of media. He’s a great fit for our program and will complement our existing faculty in providing a transformative learning experience.”

The new master’s program aims to balance the theoretical and applied study of media to question conventional understanding of media technology, content, and audiences. It will rethink the media’s role in urban development, economic justice, political activism, environmental responsibility, public policy and cultural identity. Students will be engaged in project-based learning and highly individualized courses of study.

Says Queens College’s Interim President Evangelos Gizis, “Dr. Rushkoff joins a remarkable community of academics who are providing relevant and thoughtful learning to the next generation. Our success in attracting leading scholars such as Rushkoff is a reflection of the academic excellence that we have cultivated at Queens College.” 

“A pioneering media scholar such as Rushkoff joining our faculty helps us fulfill our mission,” notes Dean of Arts and Humanities William McClure. “As a public institution, we’re committed to providing students access to the best education possible irrespective of their socioeconomic status – including access to top thinkers in our nation.”

Rushkoff joins the ranks of acclaimed scholars in emerging areas of study at Queens College, including department chair Maxwell, the co-author of Greening the Media (2012) who is a political economist and expert on cultural consumption and the environmental impact of media technology; and MA program director Mara Einstein, an expert in consumption and cause marketing.

Starting in August, Rushkoff will be teaching courses in propaganda and media theory. He plans to involve students in his continuing work as advisor for the digital literacy platform Codecademy and other New York startups, his books and documentaries, and the relaunch of his radio show, “The Media Squat”, which models open source and collectivist approaches to social and economic challenges. 

The new Master of Arts in Media Studies program begins offering courses this August and will welcome its first cohort in Spring 2015.

For information:
http://www.qc.cuny.edu/Academics/Degrees/DAH/MediaStudies/Pages/MAinMediaStudies.aspx 

Undergraduate course - Propaganda (Wednesday afternoons)

Graduate course - Interactive Media Studies (Wednesday evenings)

Both can be taken by matriculated students or non-matriculated students. To register as a non-matriculated student for the graduate course, apply here (they make it look hard but it’s very easy), and then simply email me and I’ll put you in the course. 

If you want to take the undergraduate course, Propaganda, as a non-enrolled student, apply here and then email me. 

 

Saturday
May172014

Punching Nerds in the Face is Never a Good Thing

(CNN) -- At this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner -- the annual opportunity for the President to engage directly, and humorously, with reporters who cover him -- it was expected that most of the jibes would be aimed at Barack Obama. Sure, he gets the chance to defend himself, but it's pretty much a roast: A leading comedian is invited every year to make jokes, while the commander in chief tries to laugh instead of squirm.

Maybe that's why I was so jolted when this year's headliner, comedian Joel McHale of TV's "The Soup," took such a hard swipe at Google. "America still has amazing technological innovations. Google Glass has hit the markets. Now, just by walking down the street, we'll know exactly who to punch in the face."

It got a pretty good laugh -- perhaps because both the press and the politicians in the room were relieved to have been spared for at least one joke. But the violence of the imagery, and the intensity of the rage that it expressed, gave me serious pause: Are we in the midst of a new kind of tech industry backlash? And is it for something these companies are actually doing, or have they simply lost control of the technology story?

This is more than the traditional sort of commentary and critique of a new form of culture that we've seen waged against everything from television advertising or fashion iconography in the past.

When the artists called Like4Real rebel against the ubiquity of the Facebook "Like" by holding a funeral for the thumbs-up symbol, it comments effectively, if acerbically, on the changing nature of social relationships in a commercial space. Meanwhile, artists from KillYourPhone.com are encouraging people to make special pouches for cell phones and PDAs, which prevent them from receiving signals. Again -- agree with them or not about the need for an occasional digital detox -- it's clever, provocative and memorable satire.

But the notion, even expressed jokingly, of punching people in the face for wearing Google Glass -- as if the device somehow signals a traitor to the cause of humanity -- pushes things over the top. Yes, we can all imagine how people wearing an augmented reality device might be annoying: They can surf the Web while pretending to converse with us or, worse, record us when we don't know it. No sooner had the very first prototypes been spotted last year than TechCrunch reported a new, purely apprehensive moniker for its wearers: Glassholes. But it's as if the public is now being primed to go after early adopters -- almost to a point where one might be reluctant to put on the device.

Are technology companies such as Google shouldering the blame for too much? It seems as if they are bearing responsibility not only for people's fears about the future of technology but the excesses of corporate capitalism.

Consider the hullabaloo now centered on the buses that convey Google employees from San Francisco to Silicon Valley. This winter, protesters waylaid one of the Google shuttles, going so far as to hurl a brick through one of its windows in protest of what they see as the tech giant's gentrifying influence on the city. When San Francisco introduced the new Muni 83X bus line, locals were quick to point out that its sparsely utilized buses run suspiciously close to Twitter headquarters. More protests, and more vitriol ensued.

Of course, in reality, Google's buses spare the highway a whole lot of traffic, and the atmosphere from countless tons of carbon emissions from what would otherwise be an extra few thousand cars on the highways every day. And suspicions about local government adding commuter lines to accommodate Twitter appear to be unfounded.

The deeper angst in San Francisco appears to be over the way each new tech initial public offering creates another few thousand millionaires who want to buy apartments, jacking up the real estate prices for everyone else. But even this local economics issue seems unlikely to be motivating such widespread disdain for tech business. Besides, there are a number of corporations with much worse records of displacing locals or hurting business than the new tech giants.

No, I think the reason these young corporations are getting so much pushback is that they were once seen as the upstarts -- as the companies on the people's side of things. Digital technology was supposed to disrupt business as usual, create new opportunities for both self-expression and small business, and -- perhaps most of all -- change the very nature of the corporation and its relationship to real people and places. They're being held to a higher standard than companies of previous generations.

Now that these little garage businesses are some of the biggest companies in the world, it's a whole lot harder for them to exhibit the qualities that once made them the darlings of the culture and counterculture alike. Yes, digital companies are being held to a higher standard than companies of previous generations. But this is largely because we all understand that they are building the infrastructure in which our economics, culture and perhaps even a whole lot of human consciousness will take place.

That's why they have to pay more attention to communicating their intentions than might otherwise seem justified. Steve Jobs was famous for keeping great secrets, but Apple is largely a consumer electronics firm. We like being surprised about the features on our next phone.

A company such as Google can't be as secretive when it purchases a military robotics firm. Without clear messaging about the reasons for such acquisitions, the public mind reels, particularly in the wake of National Security Agency disclosures, jobs lost to automation and movies from "Her" to "Transcendence."

Instead of balking at our widespread suspicions, the leaders of Silicon Valley must begin communicating honestly and effectively about what they hope and dream for. If people are scared of Google's Glass, of Facebook's purchase of a virtual reality company or of Twitter's use of big data, then it's up to those companies to explain loud and clear how these developments will serve us all.

For once, protecting strategy secrets has to take a back seat to clear communications. If these companies really are building the world we're all going to be living in, they have to let us in on their plans. Otherwise, we're going to feel like we've been left off the bus.

Thursday
May152014

Present Shock and the VC Mindset at DLD

I finally got to speak at a DLD, and ended up applying the Present Shock concept to the rushed, innovation-killing, and ultimately anti-human nature of the digital economy. 

Sunday
Apr202014

Dark Rye does Present Shock

This artfully-produced little film about me and Present Shock just came out from Dark Rye, a film series funded by Whole Foods. I have trouble looking at it, myself, but that might just be because it's me on the screen, looking into lens most of the time. The movie recreates the experience of present shock, which is probably why it feels a bit frenetic to me. But I have shown it to my friends, who agree that it does well communicate the concepts of the book - and in just a few minutes at that.

The filmmaker, Angus Cann, is super bright, and I encourage you to check out some of his other work on the site. Here's a link to the whole Rushkoff section:

http://www.darkrye.com/content/rushkoff-0

Contact

Book Business Katinka Matson
The Brockman Agency
212-935-8900
Media Inquiries media[at]rushkoff[dot]com
Talks talks[at]rushkoff[dot]com
Personal rushkoff[at]rushkoff.com
All Else contact[at]rushkoff[dot]com
 

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