Douglas Rushkoff, Program or Be Programmed

This is my paraphrased non-verbatim transcription of Me, Losing It which Douglas posted on 11Jan11, last week.

Thanks to @eharrisondotorg for pointing it out. I have summarized repetitive phrasing and added my own thoughts and comments, so this should not be even remotely confused with a verbatim transcript. I think he has a rather dystopian view of life, which should be balanced against The Good Old Days – They Were Terrible! by Otto Bettmann, Founder of the Bettmann Archive.

[After MC’s intro, opens w/speaking of people who work with modern tech tools and press them into services for which they weren’t designed&#8230]

If they don’t understand what the technologies they’re using are for, it’s hard to use them effectively.

Facebook is for inserting brands ‘tween social relationships, not for friendships.

On the next level, though, this book is written for people who make applications like Facebook. The internet was a way of restoring the peer-to-peer culture that has been the majority of our history.

Facebook’s promise [to businesses] is recentralizing the way culture happens.

Social marketing is the attempt to tell centralized-thinking corporations, that “your brands are safe, you just need to deliver the message this way.”

The Internet was programmed for Distributed Communication. It was designed to create value from the periphery and exchange that value directly. That’s the very thing that corporations, centralized currency and most of the monopolies we have were created to try to stop.

A little bit of history: if this is something real, what is it and what can you tell your clients to do about it?

How did people find out about products? In the middle ages, they went to the Bazaar. Many overlapping conversations occurring in with multiple contexts. This turned out to be a great thing…

This led to a peer-to-peer P2P economy that challenged feudalism.

As your lit prof loved to say, “compare and contrast” this rather dystopian view with the uplifting ideas of the open source movement: Eric Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar and Daniel Pink’s Drive are the two which come to mind first.

Buy CatB from our Amazon-affiliate store to support the site or from O’Reilly. (Aside: Tim, do you guys have an affiliate program?)

Buy Drive from Amazon.

People made stuff and sold it to other people. P2P created a rising middle class, they were creating value. The Feudal Lords’ families hadn’t worked in centuries. They called in “experts” to give them tools to supress this P2P economy.

1st Tool: centralized currency, using the “coin of the realm” making all other currencies illegal. Took about two centuries to implement.

2nd Tool: chartered corporation. The King effectively creating a monopoly. So now instead of working for yourself, you had to work for one of the chartered corporations in order to have a living. Took 400-500 years for this to take hold and become dominant. Most of the support structures we see were designed to support that.

The Industrial Age was to reduce the skill level required for people to work in companies. Unskilled labor can be paid less and replaced easily. Mass production was about alienating the worker from the value he was creating.

Instead of buying oats from Joe, the miller, I’m supposed to buy them from a box that was shipped in from thousands of miles away. Branding was created to simulate the relationship I used to have with a person in the P2P economy.

Yes, this was going on, yet it wasn’t all bad. Buy Good Old Days or review the study guide above.

This grew up to the mid-nineties. Then we got the ‘Net. “Big Capital” dumped money into companies who didn’t need it, so the money went away. After the dot-com crash, the net starts to grow again, for real.

When people interact on social media, they’re interacting as people, not as consumers. Brands have no place in that conversation [because brands are not people].

The value that people on social media create is the information they share. People are looking to find out what is real. Your products are media, you can supply people with the actual information they need to connect.

The purpose of Program or Be Programmed is to understand The Tools and the biases of the tools: this is the way a distributed network works.

The object of the game is to get my followers to follow one another.

Certain kinds of facts say, “make me!” Other kinds don’t. If you’re fake, that’s gonna spread. Or if someone is doing something original and good, that’ll spread too. Just as important is “what kind of content am I putting out there?” Damage Control is in the non-fiction space.

You can go beyond satirizing, you can demonstrate what a company could put out: ideas that could really amplify your good or service.

What I recommend is, understanding what kinds of ideas replicate, or amplify your good or service. What are the idea neighborhoods or camps that help or hurt what you do, even if the ideas seem unrelated?

For further reading on this, look for the STI Press title The Geography of Relationships, ISBN: 978-1-936248-27-8, due out in Summer 2015. Pre-reserve your copy with a donation to the 501(c)6 STETA Consortium

If you’re in the stock broker business, you don’t want to be promoting yacht clubs right now.

Now, you’re dealing in multi-dimensional, non-fiction conversations where people are conversing expressly for the purpose of connecting on higher levels of organization.

The real problem is that there’s frightfully little real conversations going on. These are good times…

Come On!, Out With It!, dontja really mean, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”!?!

So much of what companies are trying to accomplish is not consonant with the underlying architecture and the agenda of social media. It exists to help people create and exchange value directly with one another. The extent to which you can equip them with tools, motivation and information to do so, is the extent to which you can represent the culture you serve. If a company cannot be the center of the thing it does, it should not be in social media.

If the company does not have the most qualified, the most enthusiastic people, doing the thing you do, then no one is going to care what your company is saying. If you really have that, the R&D, the engineers, then all you have to teach them is to remove the obstacles. Just let them be and the marketing will take care of itself!

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