Douglas Rushkoff, Prophet of Our Era

This one’s been killing me for a few days.

I love me some Douglas Rushkoff. From this documentary to this media primer, and from this comic to this economics text, Rushkoff’s stuff influences my thinking about our culture and the church’s relationship to it as much as anything I read or watch or listen to. It never fails.

Rushkoff addressed the SXSW interactive festival a couple of weeks ago. The above video contains clips from that talk. Watch the thing. Here are some money quotes, though:

“We are attempting to operate our society on obsolete code.”

“If you are not a programmer, you are one of the programmed. It’s that simple.”

“And now we get the computer. Do we get a nation of programmers? No, we get a nation of bloggers. We write in the box that Google gives us.”

“Text gave us Judaism. The printing press gave us protestantism. What does this one [the computer] give us?”

For churches, what does this one give us? That seems to have been the question driving Theology After Google, and it’s the itch I’m scratching while reading What Would Google Do?

As for an answer? I can’t say for certain, but I’m a bit worried.

The early evidence suggests that this one gives churches Facebook pages, populated by comments like, “What should we use this Facebook page for?” This one gives churches online giving. This one gives churches websites that are either miserable because they don’t understand the web and so function as online marquees or stellar because they do understand the web and so can manipulate traffic through Search Engine Optimization.

Program or be programmed: that’s Rushkoff’s maxim. How do churches program? Somebody please tell me. I don’t have any positive answers or illustrations or examples.

Maybe start with the negative questions first: how do churches avoid being programmed by the technology?  How do churches learn the biases of the media the culture is using? How do churches help people (inside the church and out)  understand those  biases as well?

I’ve toyed with the idea of a media literacy unit for the church youth. Rushkoff makes that notion suddenly feel urgent.


9 thoughts on “Douglas Rushkoff, Prophet of Our Era

  1. landon whitsitt says:

    I spent a good 30 minutes last night just chewing this question in my mind, and then I woke up to this post by Seth Godin this morning:

    Rushkoff asks the question. Does Seth provide an answer that satisfies you (even if not directly addressing “church”)?

    It satisfies me, but now I’m wondering how I apply it to the mission of the God.

    • Fate, I say.
      Godin’s talking about using the changed media and publishing landscape to make your own way as a creator. It’s about using the connectivity of the technology to lead a “tribe,” to be a tour guide, an organizer. I like that. A lot. But is that programming? Is that getting behind the technology and making it do what you want it to do? Or is that still just doing what it allows you (nay, demands you) to do? Isn’t that still “writing in the box Google gives you?”

      • landon whitsitt says:

        Now we get into the realm of parsing terms between tech and social software (which Rushkoff, like a good preacher, didn’t make uber-clear).

        On the tech front:
        This is why I’m such an advocate for open source software. If you choose, you can be a part of the programming. You are not locked into proprietary code. Sometimes you want to be, however. I produce a podcast so I want a Mac because Macs do that work better than any other OS, IMO. But it’s a conscious choice on my part.

        On the social front:
        Same thing, but different application. Sometimes you want to be proprietary. This is what folks like T Jones miss. I want to be PCUSA because I think the denom does what it does better than anything else. However, I want to push my church because we should not be locked into mission work that simply consists of taking up 4-5 “special offerings” per year (“Writing in Google’s box”).

  2. Pingback: Youth Ministry as Media Literacy « YoRocko!

  3. Pingback: Program or Be Programmed « YoRocko!

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