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Posted January 18, 2015 by Karen Lorena

As a younger sibling having an older IT brother I've always found myself asking "computer stuff" to him. I can remember myself calling him everytime my computer froze or when I just had "touched nothing, it had just stopped working." Even though I've refrained myself of doing so over the years more and more each day (for various reasons) reading Rushkoffs "Program or be Programmed" book last semester in Designing for This Century class made me embarrassed about my frustration of subordinating my need to a stupid configuration of some machine or a not-so-intuitive interface. We tailor our wants to the available choices without realizing we are not only adapting to the inevitable realities of our times but to the strategies of business interests.

The debate about weather the internet is good or bad has been, is and will continue being a big matter but the biggest counter-claim or argument that lies right besides it is that it is here and it is everywhere. On Rushkoff's introduction and first chapter of his book "Program or be programmed" he points towards the real question "Do we direct technology, or do we let ourselves be directed by it and those who have mastered it? Choose the former,” writes Rushkoff, “and you gain access to the control panel of civilization. Choose the latter, and it could be the last real choice you get to make.”

That being said I think it's safe to say that "Program or be Programmed" was my favorite reading throughout D4TC class. I think that, with very clear examples Rushkoff is able to make a clear analogy between what has been going on around the world and our position as educated civilians. With all the digital changes it seems as if more each day we are not only accepting without giving them thought but actually being left to someone else's design and architecture of how the world (not only the physical but also the digital world) should be. As Rushkoff clearly expresses it's not about getting everybody to learn how to program, is to get people to understand that there is such thing as programming, and that you get to tell the computer what to do and not the other way around. As he states in one of his many examples "The difference between a computer programmer and a user is much less like that between a mechanic and a driver than it is like the difference between a driver and a passenger. If you choose to be a passenger, then you must trust that your driver is taking you where you want to go" (Rushkoff, p.9)

Why are we leaving the decisions to those ones around us when we should be prepared to make changes in the world, and we can no longer do this if we do not learn the language that this century has prepared for us. A very clear example that Ruskoff uses is when he talks about changes throughout history. Whenever a new way of communication became available, the masses were always one step behind. Writing was invented and priests started reading to the people, and then printing became available which began drawing people towards reading. Now we're able to write anywhere. Aren't our constant facebook and blogs updates prove of that? But we are, as masses still one step behind, writing in the boxes provided to us, whereas we could, in fact we should be creating our own boxes.

Seems as if we're just so used to how everything is that we have stopped caring over who controls what. I don't know about the impression of this article over you, reader. Let alone if it was good enough to convince you to read the whole Program or be Programmed book. As of me, after reading Rushkoff 's book I was challenged in a way, I already knew coding was important, (otherwise I wouldn't be taking "Design for this Century" class) and even though it wasn't something I really enjoy I can certainly understand the importance of it a whole lot better. It is still not my favorite thing in the world but I can say that I am trying, and, who knows, maybe sometime in these two years after I finish my graduate program I can be teaching my brother some programing language he's unfamiliar with.

  • Rushkoff, Douglas. Program or Be Programmed. Berkeley: Soft Skull Press, 2010. 1-27, 72-95.
  • Weiland, Jeremy. "A Review of Douglas Rushkoff's "Program or Be Programmed"" Social Memory Complex. November 7, 2010. Accessed February 7, 2014.