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Events

April 24, 2014
Blurred Lines
Finding the Boundaries in a Constantly Connected Society
ColoDLA, Lone Tree, CO

April 24, 2014
Ethics Matter
The Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
Merrill House, NYC, 6p

May 1, 2014
DLDnyc
Business, Digital Culture and Innovation
New York City

May 6, 2014
“20/20 Vision”
Canadian Media Directors’ Council Conference
TIFF Lightbox, Toronto

May 6, 2014
Stream-Lecture: Present Shock
Orange Press

May 7, 2014
”Generation Like”
Screening and Q&A
Consumer Reports, Yonkers

 

Blog

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

Sunday
Apr202014

Dutch TV's Tegenlicht does Present Shock

The strangely compelling Dutch TV show Tegenlicht offers artists, musicians, and writers 45 minutes to explain themselves, using media and objects that relate to their ideas. Here's me doing Present Shock in this wonderfully expansive format.
Wednesday
Apr162014

Is Mike Judge's 'Silicon Valley' the End of Startup Mania?

This post originally appeared in RushkoffMail. Subscribe here.  

I've always credited 'Beavis & Butt-head' creator Mike Judge for bringing down MTV.

The simple cartoon, originally a short segment on late-night Liquid Television, consisted mostly of two teenage boys watching rock videos, making commentary about them, and then rejecting them: "this sucks, change it.” For me, the show was armchair media criticism - a lesson in deconstructing television. Where a rock video used to be able to lure a teenage boy with sexual imagery, it was a whole lot harder to fall into the spell with Beavis shouting “nice set!” No, it may not have been the sophisticated analysis of McLuhan, but it was at least as alienating an effect as Bertolt Brecht.

And MTV’s ratings went down, along with the ability of the network to pass off advertising as programming.

After watching Judge’s latest effort, a live-action tech industry satire on HBO called 'Silicon Valley,' I began to wonder if he might deflate another value-challenged culture as effectively as he took down MTV. It’s a buddy show along the lines of Entourage, except the lead is a geeky, horny developer instead of a handsome, horny movie star. But the potential brilliance of the series lies in Judge’s only slight exaggerations of the hypocrisy underlying the digital startup landscape: these are people claiming to be saving the world, when they’re really just the latest generation of desperate yuppies chasing capital and, in turn, reinforcing Wall Street’s monopoly over our society. Digital business is revolutionary only in the way it camouflages business as usual.

And while I’m pondering all this, the NASDAQ stock exchange has its worst decline since 2011 or maybe before, led down by the poster children of Silicon Valley excess: Facebook, Twitter, Tesla. Coincidence? Not really. For while there may be no direct cause and effect between the airing of a TV show and the immediate slide of the valuation of the companies satires, there is a sea change occurring.

It was significant enough for Silicon Valley hero billionaire Elon Musk, founder of Paypal and Tesla, to immediately criticize the program: “I really feel like Mike Judge has never been to Burning Man, which is Silicon Valley. If you haven’t been, you just don’t get it.” That Musk would credit Silicon Valley for Burning Man is kind of like crediting the Conquistadors for Quetzalcoatl - but that’s besides the point. What’s interesting is that he doth protest too much, which just underscores for me how important public perception is to an economic model based on hype.

Anyway, I’ll be glad to see the hype fade, as it has before, leaving those who truly love the possibilities of digital technology to keep on developing it - without the pressures of venture capital firms and their requirement to achieve spectacular results instead of good, sustainable ones.

Monday
Mar242014

Shareable.com - Democracy: There's an App for That

The best thing about Occupy Wall St. wasn't what it argued politically or accomplished legislatively, but what it modeled for us: a new way of engaging with issues, resolving conflict, and reaching consensus. It was a style of engagement that seemed like it could only happen in person, between young people willing to sit in a cold park all night until they could come to an agreement over an issue.

But now, a small collective in New Zealand has developed a digital platform through which any group - large or small, local or global - can take a page from the Occupier’s handbook. It’s called Loomio, and it’s already being used by civic activists in Ukraine, thousands of direct democracy advocates in Greece, municipalities in England, foundations, and credit unions.

It’s all based on what the Occupy movement called the General Assembly, an alternative to parliamentary procedure, borrowed from the Ancient Greek senate. It’s a deceptively simple (and easily satirized) process where the crowd waves their hands to indicate their approval or level of objection to a proposal. It may look a little silly, but it proved a valid or even superior method for forging consensus than traditional debate, where one side wins and the other, well, loses.

The problem with the general assembly, like representative democracy, is that it’s quite limited in scale. You can only have so many people engaging with one another, blocking motions, and making arguments. Plus, it just has to happen in person.

Well, now there’s an app for that. The first time I saw it in beta, I asked if I could be an advisor to the non-profit collective working on it. (They agreed.) And this week, they’re finally releasing the application and doing a Kickstarter campaign to develop it further.

Amazingly, there exists no great tool online for groups to make decisions. There are plenty of platforms on which to collaborate or work together. But the most complicated decisions most of us have made online deal with the time or location of a meeting.

The Loomio application lets members of a group offer proposals, discuss their merits, make changes, and register their feelings all along the way. By entering into this process in good faith, even large groups can steer towards outcomes that may not be perfect for everyone, but make the fewest people unhappy - and nobody too very upset.

It’s not much more than a pie graph with four buttons, but its simplicity (and privacy) is getting it positive attention from a broad cross section of people across the globe—from remote villages in India, community hospitals in Vietnam, to government departments and early childhood education centers. Even the Wellington City Council that 12 months previously had been trying to evict Loomio’s developers from the public square, is now using Loomio to collaborate with citizens in developing policy.

I can only wonder what would have happened if the recent controversy over installing a synthetic football field at the high school in my community had been conducted on platform like Loomio instead of at contentious town hall debates. I know people who still aren’t on speaking terms as a result of our all-or-nothing, winner-takes-all, scorched earth battle.

Likewise, as I ponder the inadequacy of a two-party political system hatched in the 1700’s, especially when its polarities are magnified by the spin cycle of 21st Century media and markets. What was supposed to be a way of generating multifaceted solutions has devolved into intransigence and extremism.

Debate itself is a form of combat, not an approach to reaching an agreement. It’s geared toward creating no greater number of winners than losers. That’s not what democracy was supposed to be about. As one of Loomio’s founders, Ben Knight explains, “Democracy is about collaboration - people coming together and making decisions. Democracy is not a scarce resource - it doesn’t need to be this abstract thing that we only get access to once every 4 years, managed by a professional class far away. With the right tools, it can be a skill that we practice together every day, in our schools, our workplaces and our communities.”


While Loomio might not replace representative democracy - nor should we necessarily want it to - it may take some of the pressure off our democratic institutions by giving people the ability to make a whole lot of decisions for themselves, and with one another. 

Saturday
Mar152014

Testament: New Price, Old Interview 

Jeff Newelt dug up this interview for Write Now! back in 2007, as a way of celebrating the release of Testament and its new discounted $12.99 pricetag for the whole series. 

Jeff's a good friend, so the conversation goes deeper than most. We talk about the comics writers and artists who influenced me while I was writing Testament, and the challenge of pitching stories as lurid as the Bible to modern-day publishers.

Interestingly, we spend a good deal of time talking about whether the Bible stories I "futurize" in Testament were still truly relevant to a 2007 audience. Little did we know that the markets were about to crash, and that cryptocurrency and deep government surveillance would become real phenomena at the center of the public conversation. 

Of course, that Biblical stories are timeless is actually the point. It's not just a portal to the past, but to the future and maybe more importantly, the present. 

Thanks to Danny Fingeroth and Two Tomorrows for letting us post the interview.

You can get the complete Testament Omnibus at Comixology

You can also read Jeff's original review of Testament for HEEB Magazine, here.

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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