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.