Currents 051: Douglas Rushkoff on the Once and Future Internet

Jim talks with Douglas Rushkoff about where the internet came from, where it might go, & how to move from dystopian despair to productive engagement…

Jim talks with Douglas Rushkoff about where the internet came from, where it might go, & how to move from dystopian despair to productive engagement. Loosely following the syllabus for (Re-)Designing the Internet, a course Douglas co-teaches at CUNY with Jeff Jarvis, they discuss the internet as a read-write medium, reclaiming control of attention, journalism’s move to Substack, language as VR, the Sixties dream of a thriving unimind, Allan Kaprow’s creation of happenings, the DIY pre-internet, the shift from shareware to for-profit tech, John Perry Barlow’s “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” how net libertarianism created a free zone for corporate capture, the move from helping people find exploits to finding exploits in people, tuning interfaces for or against reactivity, the early internet as a place where people sounded smarter than in real life, the meaning of human-centered design, the value of viscosity in political & communication systems, denaturalizing design choices, the increasing evidence that the kids aren’t alright, Facebook’s Meta pivot as an act of desperation, how web 3.0 & blockchain technologies reify predatory speculation, Canadian banks’ recent suspension of truckers’ accounts, distributed tech’s discovery problem, certain web communities as “Graeberian prisons of structural violence,” the potential for affirming the best in one another, and much more.
Named one of the “world’s ten most influential intellectuals” by MIT, Douglas Rushkoff is an author and documentarian who studies human autonomy in a digital age. His twenty books include the just-published Team Human, based on his podcast, as well as the bestsellers Present ShockThrowing Rocks and the Google BusProgram or Be ProgrammedLife Inc, and Media Virus. He also made the PBS Frontline documentaries Generation LikeThe Persuaders, and Merchants of Cool. His book Coercion won the Marshall McLuhan Award, and the Media Ecology Association honored him with the first Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity.
Rushkoff’s work explores how different technological environments change our relationship to narrative, money, power, and one another. He coined such concepts as “viral media,” “screenagers,” and “social currency,” and has been a leading voice for applying digital media toward social and economic justice. He a research fellow of the Institute for the Future, and founder of the Laboratory for Digital Humanism at CUNY/Queens, where he is a Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics. He is a columnist for Medium, and his novels and comics, Ecstasy ClubA.D.D, and Aleister & Adolf, are all being developed for the screen.