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February 24, 2015
Lecture at Staten Island College
Staten Island, New York, NY, 4:30p

March 10, 2015
Think Outside the Boss: Cooperative Alternatives to the Sharing Economy
With Trebor Sholz, Sarah Horowitz and others
Civic Hall

New York, NY

April 6, 2015
Digital Media Environment
Middle Tennessee University
Murfreesboro, Tennessee, 7pm

April 11, 2015
New Jersey Communications Association Convention Keynote
St. Peters University
Jersey City, New Jersey

April 17, 2015
PSFK 2015
Present Shock - the followup
New York City

April 28, 2015
Transforming Media: New Realities of the Digital Age
Always On: Social Media as Social Programming
Davis Auditorium, University of Denver

May 15, 2015
Hilton Head Institute
Present Shock conversation, Douglas Rushkoff & Amber Case
Hilton Head, NC





Journey’s End: Rushkoff and the Collapse of Narrative

Very nice analysis of Present Shock's "Narrative Collapse" chapter, and how it impacts movies and storytelling, from writer Sean P. Carlin. Here's a taste:

A narrative unfolds over time, and carries us to a logical, conclusive endpoint; Rushkoff, in essence, asserts that our conventional sense of continuity—of linear narrativity—got disrupted by seismic events like 9/11 and the Information Age (“The new inventions and phenomena that were popping up all around us just didn’t fit into the stories we were using to understand our circumstances” [ibid., 15]), as well as hijacked by advertisers and politicians that manipulated us to the point of disillusionment with false premises and promises.  (That is a gross oversimplification of but one aspect of Rushkoff’s elegant thesis, and I encourage anyone interested in further exploration of the subject to read Present Shock, or at very least check out this brief video lecture Rushkoff conducted for PSFK.)

With a narrative arc that is possibly no longer compatible “with a presentist culture” (ibid., 39), as Rushkoff posits, what’s arisen in its place is a sort of “postnarrative” approach to storytelling (bear with me on this one because it’s a very cool, eye-opening notion), in which there are either no stakes or consequences (he cites The Simpsons as an example), the viewing experience itself supplants linear plot progression as the entire point of the program (Beavis and Butt-headMystery Science Theater 3000), or, the movement’s current permutation:  sprawling ensemble shows like LostGame of Thrones, and The Walking Dead, which “are less about what will happen next, or how the story will end, than about figuring out what is actually going on right now—and enjoying the world of the fiction, itself” (ibid., 32).

“And like a fantasy role-playing game, [Game of Thrones] is not about creating satisfying resolutions, but rather about keeping the adventure alive and as many threads going as possible.  There is plot—there are many plots—but there is no overarching story, no end.  There are so many plots, in fact, that an ending tying everything up seems inconceivable, even beside the point” (ibid., 34).

That is postnarrative storytelling in a nutshell.  To be clear:  It isn’t necessarily that it’s epic in scope and ensemble-driven—Lord of the Ringswas that, and that’s a classically structured hero’s journey if ever there was one—it’s that it adheres to an altogether different organizational pattern and corresponding set of audience expectations than the mythic arc that has given shape to virtually every story since Classical Antiquity.  There’s no moral.  There’s no conclusion.  There’s no catharsis in The End because there is no end built into the overall design of the narrative experience.  In short:  This isn’t your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather’s campfire yarn.

More at Sean P Carlin's blog.


CNN: Was government hack our final warning? 

(CNN) -- Was this the big one?

Will the breach of at least 4 million government personnel files across all federal government agencies, including the private data of those applying for top-security clearance, be the one that brings everything down? Or is it merely another tremor before the big quake we've all been expecting but are in too much denial to prepare for?

In either case, it's an opportunity to reconsider our relationship to data, to secrecy, and to the Internet itself. This latest cyberattack, which investigators think originated in China --right on the heels of a attack on the IRS, which the agency believes originated in Russia -- can easily be misinterpreted as a call to tighten up security of the Internet, spy on users even more closely, and further compromise the openness of the world's communication infrastructure.

No, instead of changing the Internet to better secure sensitive data, we should get sensitive data off the people's network.

First, it's important not to underestimate the gravity of the most recent breach. Government officials will surely brush off the damage as minor. Sure, it's inconvenient for all these workers to have their Social Security numbers and other important records released, but it's not like the enemy has our nuclear launch codes. But with their hands on private personnel data -- particularly that of officials and operatives with the highest levels of security clearance -- they have unpredictable leverage in any number of situations.

Imagine how well pilots perform when they find out their family's bank account at home has been frozen. Or consider how effectively an operative can perform in the field when her counterparts have access to her medical or psychological histories. How well can an ambassador function when the foreign government he's attempting to strong arm can blackmail him over things he's confessed to his supervisors but not his wife?

No, data breaches aren't pretty, and the things smart hackers and governments can do with even peripheral files dwarf any of the cable-TV drama scenarios I'm imagining here. But they are to be expected because they are an inevitable outcome of using an open network to convey information we mean to keep closed.

The Internet was not designed for this. The network was built on the presumption of trust. (Don't overestimate the Defense Department's role in building the thing. The computer scientists the DoD funded had a bigger idea than facilitating Pentagon communications.)

The net was meant for researchers to share information with trusted peers on other nodes of the network. All the machines talk to one another as intimately as two nerve endings in your brain. They ping each other back and forth, all the time. Even "I'm closed to you" is a response from a server that is, at the very least, listening for the right request.

This is part of the reason why the Internet was originally closed to businesses, banks, and others who had agendas other than the free expression and sharing of information. The universities and organizations running the net understood that the moment people wanted to accomplish something other than learning online, the openness and effectiveness of the system would be compromised. Users had to sign an agreement promising not to conduct business online in order to get an account.

Once business, and eventually credit and banking were allowed online, networking became a whole lot more serious. Now a password meant more than accessing someone's stored computer game files or research papers; it was connected to something real: money. And once government started using these very same networks for sensitive data, well, from then on the clock was ticking. This week, we got the alarm.

The Internet may look big, but it is a fragile little network. It can hardly handle the stress of streaming video without compromising its legacy of neutrality, much less the secrets of the U.S. government without sacrificing its true mission of connecting the people of world in open interaction.

The government, along with business, banking, and everything else that depends on security should simply get off the Internet and build another one. After this week, they can't say they haven't been warned.


Digital Disruption and the Death of Storytelling

Interview from this month's issue of Marketing News about present shock, big data, and the end of linear narrative. 

"The beginning of my conversation with Douglas Rushkoff happens as if it had been scripted: Rushkoff tries to answer my call while it’s being redirected from his phone through his laptop, through Google Voice and Skype, and the call doesn’t connect. “I don’t know what’s happening anymore,” he says. “Everything rings at once, and everything refers to something else.”  

Read the rest...


This Idea Must Die! on the Freakonomics Podcast

A quick appearance on the Freakonomics Podcast, to discuss atheism, cosmology and the singularity.  

Listen here. 



'Open Source Democracy' Available for Free Download

A new ebook edition (pub/kindle) of Open Source Democracy, with CC license, is now available for download at

The books asks: What would happen if the ‘source code’ of our democratic systems were opened up to the people they are meant to serve?

In the software industry, the open source movement has emphasized collective cooperation over private ownership. Open source enthusiasts have found a more efficient way of working by pooling their knowledge to encourage innovation. The open source community recognizes that solutions to problems emerge from the interaction and participation of lots of people, not by central planning. An open source model for participatory, bottom-up and emergent policy would force us to confront the most pressing issues of our time.

Open source principles challenge us all to participate in the redesign of political institutions in a way which enables new solutions to social problems to emerge as the result of millions of interactions. In this way, online communication may indeed be able to change offline politics.

Download it here.



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