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Rushkoff emphasizes humanity in digital age

By Kelsey Wojdyla

In a world consumed with digital media, Douglas Rushkoff is on team human. Rushkoff argued for human intervention in his talk, “Program or Be Programmed: Play, Participation and Power in a Digital Age,” in the Mayo Concert Hall on Wednesday, March 19.

Rushkoff emphasizes creativity. (Courtney Wirths / Photo Editor)
Rushkoff emphasizes creativity. (Courtney Wirths / Photo Editor)

Instead of living in a “read-only” society, Rushkoff encouraged students to use their “read/write capability” by being an active participant in all aspects of life.

“The only reason you’re not allowed to do something is because you can do it,” Rushkoff said.

He argued that knowing how to use computers but not how to program them is a “tragic mistake,” because once computers are capable of surpassing humanity, as seen in the movie “Her,” people will only be needed to use them and will thus fade into the background.

“His ideas on technology’s significance to society were entertaining and insightful,” junior elementary education and psychology dual major Kristen Pizzolo said. “He really related to the college student.”

In his most recent PBS Frontline documentary, “Generation Like,” Rushkoff explored the irony of living in a world where likes are common currency. While having a personal space to express ourselves is meant to be empowering, it actually leads us to change our values and behavior to get more likes.

Thus, Rushkoff inspired students to be the drivers of their lives, not computerized passengers in a digital age.

“I do not trust Zuckerberg or Gates to take me to the nearest supermarket,” Rushkoff said.

Rather than relying on the “great minds that came up with crap like Facebook,” Rushkoff told students to employ themselves instead. Rushkoff joked that there are not many great employment opportunities out there, and urged students to use their time in college to figure out how to create rather than conform.

“It wasn’t what I was expecting,” junior elementary education and psychology dual major Paige Ennis said. “He made me want to reevaluate what I’m doing with my life, and inspired me to do what I love.”

According to Rushkoff, we live in a time- and efficiency-based culture, but digital is not time — it is creativity.

“Your real career is one app away, one idea away,” Rushkoff said.

Rushkoff is the author of several bestselling books on digital media and popular culture, including “Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age,” “Digital Nation” and the novel “Ecstasy Club.” In addition, Rushkoff is a graphic novelist, columnist, teacher and creator of multiple award-winning PBS Frontline documentaries.

His work focuses on the importance of remaining team human and not getting caught up in a mindless digital age.


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