Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday Book Review: Program or Be Programmed by Douglas Rushkoff

Basic Info 

Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age by Douglas Rushkoff

Why I bought it

I read an article Rushkoff published (on CNN) entitled Are Jobs Obsolete and immediately thought anyone who is willing to ask a question that challenges the very assumptions underlying our problems is worth investigating. Here the excerpt that got my attention:
I am afraid to even ask this, but since when is unemployment really a problem? I understand we all want paychecks -- or at least money. We want food, shelter, clothing, and all the things that money buys us. But do we all really want jobs?

How it connects to the public sector

A number of Rushkoff's arguments resonate with my experience in the public sector; and while I won't get into each one, Rushkoff's second chapter hit particularly close to home. In Live in Person, he argues that:
Digital networks are decentralized technologies. They work from far away, exchanging intimacy for distance. This makes them terrifically suitable for long-distance communication and activities, but rather awful for engaging with what - or who - is right in front of us. By using dislocating technology for local connection, we lose our sense of place, as well as our home field advantage.
I can't even count how many times have I've been sitting in "important" meetings only to find my colleagues praying to their blackberry and otherwise ignoring what is directly in front of them: me, others, the issue at hand, and even the solution to the day's problem.

That said, I have to admit that I've been both a perpetrator and victim, I've both ignored and been ignored.  It's become a part of the culture, but according to Rushkoff, it doesn't have to be.

What you will get out of reading it 

At its core the book is about the need to think critically about what is happening around you and making willful choices about the roles we all play; and while the book uses the specific example of programming, the same philosophy (as I have written previously) applies to the public sector.

 If you are looking for a wake up call in the digital era, this may be it.

Originally published by Nick Charney at
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